1926 James Cunningham's Appliqued Pillowcases

This is one of two matching appliqued pillowcases and a bedcover that 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. Both pillowcases are white with a single blue square at each end. On either side of each blue square is a figure of a boy with a ball, a bird, a cat, and a dog; all are made of overlapping blue circles.
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 pillowcase with the matching bedcover may be the product of a mission where Rev. Alexander Cunningham served.
Currently not on view
Object Name
pillowcase, quilted
Object Type
Date made
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
overall: 21 in x 16 in; 52 cm x 39 cm
place made
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Nancy Cunningham MacDonald

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