1790 - 1799 Esther Wheat's Wool Quilt

Esther Wheat's quilt is an example of a glazed wool fabric, not only used for bedding but also petticoats in the eighteenth century. The shiny surface of the quilt top was achieved by calendering, a process of applying heat and pressure with metal plates or rollers to a worsted fabric. In Esther's quilt the high sheen of the fabric enhanced the elaborate quilting of the large feathered heart and two pineapples surrounded by a scrolling vine with flowers. According to the donor, Esther Wheat Lee's great-great-granddaughter, the original plain weave yellow wool lining wore thin and was replaced by Esther's daughter, Olive Lee Doolittle. A thin layer of cotton fiber filling was added before the second lining of red twill weave cotton and wool was quilted to the original lining, but not through the quilt top.
Esther Wheat made this quilted indigo-blue wool bed cover for her dower chest in the 1790s. Esther, a twin, was born in 1774 in Conway, Massachusetts. She married Benjamin Lee in 1799 and died at Canastota, New York in 1847. Esther's quilt was passed down through five generations of women before being donated to the Smithsonian in 1973.
Currently not on view
Object Type
Date made
Wheat, Esther
Physical Description
fabric, wool, cotton/wool twill (overall material)
indigo (overall color)
quilted (overall production method/technique)
wool, cotton (overall thread)
wool (overall filling)
overall: 91 in x 93 in; 231 cm x 237 cm
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Conway
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Olive E. Hurlburt
Additional Media

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