1883 Fidelia Dickinson's Parlor Throw

In 1883,Fidelia Dickinson created this parlor throw, a veritable textile sampler of silk fabrics from 1783 to 1883. She made it as a wedding present for her daughter Anna, who married Isaac Newton Knapp on December 5,1883. Not only did Fidelia collect all the fabrics, but she made a key to the origins of each.
In 1931 her grandson, Arthur, wrote: “I have recently inherited a patchwork quilt made in 1883. I believe that it is an exceptional example of the quilt work of the time. It is in a perfect state of preservation and the exact history has been preserved of some forty pieces in it. The oldest piece is dated 1783. . . . I would be pleased to give this quilt to the National Museum for preservation, if you are interested.”
Twenty-eight 8 ½-inch crazy-patched blocks are set off by a 5 ½-inch red velvet strip at the top and bottom. Four corner blocks are pieced in fan patterns, a motif often found on throws of the period. In addition there are embroidered motifs of a butterfly, spider web, and flowers. One badge or ribbon was worn by John Northend, Fidelia's son-in-law, on Connecticut’s “Battle Flag Day” in 1879. “Lovers Delight” is stamped on another patch.The throw is lined with a machine-quilted dark red silk and tied every 4 ½ inches with small silk ribbon bows.
The distinguishing feature of this parlor throw is an embroidered number found on various patches. These numbers correspond to a detailed explanation of their source that was included with the donation. Thirty-six of the forty numbered pieces are from items worn on the occasion of their own weddings by relatives and friends of the bride or groom. Some examples are: “Wedding dress of Fidelia S. Hall (who made this quilt). Married Abner Wolcott Dickinson. February 28, 1844.” “Wedding vest of Abner Wolcott Dickinson.” “Wedding dress of Mary Elizabeth Dickinson. Married John Northend, May 6 [22], 1877. A sister.”
The oldest piece was from a “Wedding dress of Eunice Hills. Married Timothy Hall, M.D. April 3 1783 in East Hartford, Connecticut.” There was even a piece of Anna’s gown described as “Wedding dress of Anna Dickinson. Married Isaac Newton Knapp. December 5, 1883. Afterwards part of the wedding trousseau of Bessie Knapp Pierce [their daughter] in 1909.” Items from parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, cousins, and friends are included. The wedding present that Fidelia crafted for her daughter is a textile version of a family tree.
Fidelia S. Hall was born July 12, 1824, in East Glastonbury, Hartford, Conn. She was the daughter of Betsy Wells (1802-) and Austin Hall (1798-1851). Fidelia married Abner Wolcott Dickinson (1820-1903) on February 28, 1844. They lived in Connecticut and raised nine children. Daughter Sarah Anna (referred to as Anna), was born February 18, 1854. Anna taught school before her marriage to Isaac Newton Dickinson (1851-1930) in 1883. They had five children and lived in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Fidelia died March 20, 1909, and is buried in the Wassuc Cemetery, New Britain, Hartford, Conn. Anna died August 15, 1931, in Paris, France, and is buried in Washington, D.C.
Fidelia fashioned her wedding present to her daughter not only as a lovely item for Anna's home, but also as a very personal textile document connecting Anna to her family and friends.
Currently not on view
date made
Dickinson, Fidelia S. Hall
place made
United States: Connecticut, Hartford
Physical Description
fabric, silk, satin, velvet, ribbon, linen, cotton (overall material)
thread, silk, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 71 in x 35 in; 181 cm x 88 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. Arthur Knapp
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Family & Social Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Sarah Anna Dickenson Knapp is my great-great-grandmother (paternal). This is such a fascinating piece of history to find from my family. When will it be on view again?

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