1926 James Cunningham's Appliqued Bedcover

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This bedcovering and two matching pillowcases were made in China in the 1920s. Rev. Alexander Cunningham, a Presbyterian minister in China at the time, sent them to the United States on the birth of his nephew, James Cunningham, in 1926. Twenty 7¾-inch square blocks of white and blue cottons are framed by a white border. The white squares have appliquéd figures depicting various childhood activities such as fishing, juggling, leaping, and ball play. The animated appliquéd figures are made of overlapping blue circles, and all wear hats.
Alexander Cunningham was born March 13, 1861, in Murrayville, Illinois. He graduated from Illinois State Normal University in 1887 and McCormick Theological Seminary in 1890. In that same year he married Mary E. Neely, and they left for China to become missionaries. Assigned to the Presbyterian North China Mission, they were active missionaries in China from 1890 to 1933, and after retirement continued to live in China until 1940. After fifty years as missionaries, they returned to California on the eve of World War II. Alexander Cunningham died in Los Angeles, California, on September 20, 1943. This appliquéd bedcovering with matching pillowcases may be the product of a mission where Rev. Alexander Cunningham served.
Currently not on view
Date made
place made
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
overall: 42 in x 35 in; 107 cm x 89 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Nancy Cunningham MacDonald
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History


"I have a quilt very similar to the James Cunningham Appliqued Bedcover. I am looking for more information about these little quilts. Do you know of Rev. Cunningham, or others, sent more of these quilts from China? My quilt is in very good condition, made of a lighter blue chambray and white cotton fabrics. While the placements are a little different my quilt also has the fisher boy, a boy with a balloon, a boy reaching/pointing with 3 fingers, and only one girl figure only the girl on my quilt is jumping rope. The remaining figures on my quilt are holding an umbrella, a cane, a racquet, a flag, a shoulder pole with buckets, and a nap sack which also has a face embroidered on it. Each of the characters and he fish have eyes and mount embroidered and there are various other black embroidered details to complete the images. The work is of good quality as is the quilt overall. Mine also has 20 blocks - 10 with the figures and 10 plain blue chambray. If there is any additional information about these little quilts I would love to learn more.Thank you!Greta VanDenBerg"

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