1876 Ellen Harding Baker's "Solar System" Quilt

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Description
This "Solar System" quilt was made by Ellen Harding Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, in 1876. The wool top of this applique quilt is embellished with wool-fabric applique, wool braid, and wool and silk embroidery. Included in the design is the appliqued inscription, "Solar System," and the embroidered inscriptions, "E. H. Baker" and "A. D. 1876." The lining is a red cotton-and-wool fabric and the filling is of cotton fiber.
The maker, Sarah Ellen Harding, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio,June 8, 1847, and married Marion Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, on October 10, 1867. They lived in Cedar County until 1878, and then moved to Johnson County, where Marion had a general merchandise business in Lone Tree. Ellen had seven children before she died of tuberculosis March 30,1886.
The design of Ellen's striking and unusual quilt resembles illustrations in astronomy books of the period. Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the nineteenth century and was sometimes even fostered in their education.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1876
user
Baker, Ellen Harding
quilter
Baker, Ellen Harding
place made
United States: Iowa
Physical Description
fabric, wool, cotton/wool (overall material)
thread cotton, silk, wool (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 89 in x 106 in; 225 cm x 269 cm
ID Number
1983.0618.01
catalog number
1983.0618.01
accession number
1983.0618
Credit Line
Gift of Patricia Hill McCloy and Kathryn Hill Meardon
subject
Education
Quilting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Science & Mathematics
Art
Quilts
Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Comments

"What a wonderful visual aid, she was ahead of her time. I will be sharing this quilt with all three of the quilt guilds I belong to, my mini groups and my grandchildren. We all know how important it is to have visual aids, but to use a quilt as a medium is outstanding. Thank you for recognizing the importance of quilting and the place it holds in American history."
Such a creative use of needlework. I am a quilter and loved looking at the Solar System quilt.

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