1830 Violet Alexander's "Flowering Tree" Appliqued Quilt

A quilted inscription at the base of the flowering tree on this quilt reads “Violet E. L. Alexander / June 10 / 1830.” The central focus of this quilt, a flowering “Tree of Life” motif, is appliquéd on a 40-inch square of white cotton. Other motifs of palm trees, flowers, and long-tailed birds are appliquéd on white cotton triangles to fill out the center section. This is framed by 3-inch and 7-inch borders that are made of roller-printed floral and geometric stripes. The two borders are separated by a 3¾-inch plain white border. The corner motifs and some parts of the central tree are cut from block-printed cotton produced at the Bannister Hall print works near Preston, England.
The quilting pattern, 8 stitches per inch, consists of diagonal lines, ¼-inch apart, over the entire center and on the printed borders. Clamshell quilting is found on the plain white border. The fine quilting and use of costly chintz fabrics printed in England make it a typical example of a medallion quilt, popular in the early nineteenth century, and often found in the American South.
Violet Elizabeth was the daughter of William Bain Alexander and Violet Davidson. Violet was born January 9, 1812. She was one of fourteen children (seven girls and seven boys) who grew up on a prosperous estate in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. On December, 27, 1831 she married Dr. Isaac Wilson, who both farmed and maintained an extensive medical practice. The couple had six children, five sons and one daughter. Two sons lost their lives in the Civil War, two others farmed in the county, and another practiced medicine. Violet died at age 33 of erysipelas, a bacterial infection, during an epidemic in 1845. This quilt was made just prior to her marriage. According to information from the donor, Dr. John E. S. Davidson, the quilt may have been made by his mother, Jane Henderson (Mrs. Edward Constantine Davidson), a friend or relative of Violet.
Note: The name Violet appears and reappears in the family. She may have gone by the name “Elizabeth,” as some sources cite.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Alexander, Violet Elizabeth Lee
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 88 in x 87 in; 223 cm x 221 cm
place made
United States: North Carolina, Charlotte
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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 Dr. John E. S. Davidson
Additional Media

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