1851 - 1855 Ripley Family's "Friendship" Quilt

About 1855 in Northfield, Mass., Charles Torrence Ripley was preparing to move his family and daguerreotyping business to Fond du Lac, Wis. This “Friendship” quilt was made by friends and family for his wife, Lucy Arabella (Holton) Ripley.
Friendship quilts are composed of signed blocks of the same pattern often accompanied by an inscription. These quilts were popular in the mid-19th century when many families were relocating further west and a tangible reminder of those they left behind was in order. It is through the many signatures on this quilt that some of its history can be traced.
Blue and white printed cottons are pieced in the “Friendship Chain” (“Album” or Chimney Sweep”) pattern, and the blocks are set diagonally with a 3 ½ -inch blue-and-white polka-dot sashing. The blocks are partly outline-quilted and many have four “Xs” quilted in the white center area.
The majority of the ink-inscribed blocks (28) are from Massachusetts (mainly Northfield) and New Hampshire. Three name towns in Wisconsin, one dated 1854, and the other two, 1920s. Five other blocks are dated 1901 and 1926 and are inscribed in indelible pencil. It would appear that these were written long after the quilt was made and may indicate a significant date or person to be remembered.
In addition to names, places, and dates, many of the blocks contain verses pertinent to friendship. Adaline Swan from Northfield, Mass., penned this on her block in 1851:
“The storm-cloud comes o’er the autumn sky
And the flow’rets in their beauty die,
But friendship true, is an ever green.
That decayeth not ‘neath a sky serene”
(”True Friendship” by James Aylward 1813-1872)
The verses were taken from many sources and may have appeared in magazines or newspapers of the period.
The name of the Museum's donor, “Ione Ripley, Aug 18, 1926, Kenosha, Wisconsin” is written on one of the blocks in purple indelible pencil. The quilt had been kept in the family of her father, Floyd Stratton Ripley, until Ione donated it in 1956. Floyd Stratton Ripley was the son of Charles Stratton Ripley (1851-1914), who immigrated with his parents (Charles Torrance Ripley and Lucy Arabella Ripley) in 1855 to Fond du Lac, Wis., from Northfield, Mass. The initial recipient of this quilt, Lucy Arabella Holton, was born in 1821 in Northfield, Mass. She married Charles Torrance Ripley (b.1815) in 1847, and moved with her 3-year-old son to Fond du Lac in 1855 and had two more children. Her husband established a studio in Fond du Lac, but died in 1861. Lucy died in 1887. Her daughter-in-law, Florence Fellows Ripley (1863-1926), owned the quilt before Ione. Her name, also in indelible pencil, is noted on a block with the date 1901 and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Most likely the donor, Ione, received this quilt after her great-aunt’s death in July 1926.
The quilt was kept in the family for more than 100 years, and now serves as an example of one way a community created a memento for those who left to settle in the West.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 74 in x 84 in; 187 cm x 214 cm
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, Northfield
Associated Place
United States: New York, Queens, Long Island City
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
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 Miss Ione Ripley
Additional Media

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