1935 - 1945 Olive Bender's "Water Lily " Quilt

Olive Bender made this quilt for her son and daughter-in-law as a Christmas gift in the 1940s. Her grandson, David Bender, later donated the quilt. He recalled that his grandmother would work on quilt patches during the warm months, and then, in the winter, quilt on frames she would set up in the dining room of her Ohio farmhouse.
Nine 16”-inch blocks, appliquéd and embroidered in the “Water Lily” pattern, are set in pink and white sashing. The lily buds, leaves, water, lily pad, and flower details are embroidered. Various patterns quilted at 7 stitches per inch and scalloped edges complete the overall quilt design.
Popular in the 1920s to 1940s, the “Water Lily” motif was available in kit form or as a paper pattern. Quilt historian, Cuesta Benberry, traced this pattern to the Rainbow Quilt Block Company owned by William Pinch. His company perfected a printing process that stamped colors on muslin squares indicating the color of embroidery threads needed to complete the motif and gave the company its name, Rainbow. William Pinch (1880-1972), a professional photographer, created as many as 1,000 designs for his company. Advertised in flyers, newsletters and catalogs, the kits and patterns could be purchased by mail or in retail stores making them available to small towns and rural areas.
Olive Mae (nee Fairall) Bender was born February 13, 1892, in Frazeysburg, Ohio. She died April 18, 1971, in East Sparta, Ohio. Her quilt is an example of mid-20th-century quilting and of a design available from the Rainbow Quilt Block Company, one of many companies that promoted quilting from the 1920s on by publishing patterns and providing quilting kits.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Bender, Olive Mae Fairall
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 78 in x 74 in; 198.12 cm x 187.96 cm
place made
United States: Ohio
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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 David R. Bender

Visitor Comments

4/8/2015 8:22:25 PM
Hello, I have eleven - 16 x 16 inch finished quilt blocks from the Rainbow Quilt Block Company, The only one I have been able to absolutely identify so far is the lovely lotus blossom seen in the Olive Bender Quilt. I have the following blocks Roses Lotus (yellow - the pattern is identical except the leaves are appliqued) Unknown Flower Poppies Tulips Iris Morning Glories Pansies (not quite completed have the original fabric) Unknown Flower Carnation (missing one leaf applique) Crocus I wanted to know if the blocks were part of a single kit, or if they were purchased individually and the approximate date which seems to be sometime in the 1940s. The hand work is very accomplished on the blocks and I plan to quilt each one and turn them into pillow shams. I am sure that my mom picked these up at a garage sale in Salt Lake City, during the 1990s so I have no idea who made them. Thanks for any information you can offer Maggie
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