1846 Mary C. Nelson's "Eagle" Quilt

Mary C. Nelson of Saratoga County, New York, appliquéd her patriotic quilt with an American eagle and 28 stars representing the number of states in 1846. Texas had become a state in December 1845. The eagle motif has been symbolic of the United States since 1782, when an image of the bird was adopted for official purposes.
The appliquéd stars and eagle are made of discharge- and roller-printed cottons. The blue, brown, and white printed cotton used for the eagle has an effect of feathers. The 8-inch border is composed of six stripes, two each of a red ground print, a blue-and-white, and a plain white cotton contributing to the patriotic theme. Both the eagle and stars are outlined with a row of quilting very close to the appliquéd edge. Shell-pattern quilting enhances the eagle. The ground is quilted in a diagonal grid pattern of 8 stitches per inch. Mary’s name is cross-stitched in red below the eagle “MARY C. NELSON 22 1846.” The “22” possibly refers to her age.
Mary Caroline Nelson was born March 22, 1824, in Saratoga Springs, Dutchess County, New York. She was the youngest of six children. Her father, Gilbert Nelson, had served in the War of 1812. On June 9, 1847 Mary married Platt Sutherland Pine (1816-1884) and moved to Sandy Plains, N.Y. They had five children. According to the 1884 Beers’ History of Greene County, in 1853 Platt S. Pine purchased the homestead property of his father and made many improvements. He was among the most prosperous and successful farmers in the area. Later in 1861 he built a boarding house in South Cairo, N.Y., near the railroad station, with magnificent views of the mountains and surrounding country. Mary died in January 1894 and is buried in the Catskill Rural Cemetery.
Annie Pine, Mary’s granddaughter, visited the Smithsonian in 1937, and afterward wrote: “I . . . enjoyed viewing the quilts and saw you had none like this one and was told by the lady I could send it [Mary’s “Eagle” Quilt] there and it would be put with the others.” The quilt was donated in 1937 and has been featured in several exhibits.
In the 1960s, over 100 years after it was made, Mary’s “Eagle” Quilt was faithfully reproduced by a quilting cooperative under the direction of Nancy Cole of Barwick, Kentucky. A VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) project, the Grass Roots Citizens Committee, enabled the quilt makers of Breathitt County to obtain wholesale or donated fabrics, expand their market, and increase their earnings.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Nelson, Mary C.
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton, silk, wool (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 73 in x 88 in; 185 cm x 223 cm
place made
United States: New York, Saratoga county
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
Government, Politics, and Reform
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Annie Pine
Additional Media

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