1880 - 1890 Sophia Tilton's Parlor Throw

Sophia M. Tilton decorated her patches on this parlor throw with a wide range of painted flowers. According to donor Helen T. Batchelder, her grandmother Sophia was inspired by wildflowers such as morning glories, violets, and clover on her farm, and the roses, pansies, and lilies in her garden. Sophia was also remembered as a china painter and she used similar motifs to decorate ceramics.
China painting became a popular pastime in the United States in the 1870s. Pottery kilns developed by ceramicists such as Susan Frackelton who patented a “China-firing Apparatus” in 1886 and 1888, helped spur a large growth in both amateur and professional china painters. It is estimated that there were 20,000 professional china painters by 1900, many listed in city business directories. On this parlor throw, Sophia combined her needlework and painting skills to create her unique version of the crazy patchwork throw that was also very fashionable in the late 19th century.
The silk fabrics and ribbons that comprise this throw were said to have been bought in Boston, possibly at Thresher Bros., as Sophia’s eldest son, Alfred, owned a drugstore nearby. The throw was made for Alfred and later given to his son, the donor’s father.
A 5-inch border in the “Flying Geese” pattern frames the crazy-patchwork. The russet satin lining is decorated with bands of white silk feather-stitching framing a center rectangle outlined in herringbone-stitching. Within the rectangle is embroidered a spray of flowers and leaves in white silk. According to family tradition, it may have been designed by Sophia. The throw is edged with an orange silk cord.
Sophia Moore Leavitt, the daughter of Thomas Moore Leavitt and Sally Dearborn, was born about 1820 in Stratham, Rockingham County, N. H. Sophia’s first name was given as “Survial,” possibly a nickname, in the letter of donation. She married Nathaniel D. Tilton January 4, 1846, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. They had four sons, Alfred, Charles, Edward, and Nathaniel and were living in Watertown, Middlesex, Mass., in 1870. By 1880 Sophia was widowed and living with her youngest son (17), Nathaniel D., in Auburn, Rockingham Co., N. H.. It would have been about this time that she made her crazy-patch throw.
According to the donor at the time of donation in 1951, “Needless to say, her four sons considered it a masterpiece and I suppose it was, of the period . . . . It will be very pleasant to think of it in your department where many people can enjoy it instead of having it laid away in a trunk . . . . I give it to the museum in return for the inspiration and stimulation it has given me.” A granddaughter’s generous donation allows others to see and be inspired by her grandmother Sophia’s “masterpiece.”
Currently not on view
date made
Tilton, Survial Leavitt
Physical Description
fabric, silk, satin, ribbon (overall material)
thread, silk (overall material)
overall: 68 in x 61 in; 173 cm x 156 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Philip Batchelder
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Family & Social Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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