1850 - 1900 Sylvia S. Queen's "Garden of Eden" Quilt

Purchased at a church bazaar in Fort Smith, Arkansas, this Bible-inspired rendition in fabric of the Garden of Eden is a testimony to the ingenuity and creativity of quilt makers in the second half of the nineteenth century. The donor's grandmother, Laura Doty Diffey, acquired the quilt in 1900. It is possibly the work of Sylvia S. Queen of Olathe, Kansas, as a quilt with similar vignettes, attributed to her, is in the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee, Kansas.
The center medallion of this quilt represents the firmament, with the sun, stars, and four phases of the moon. Artfully arranged around the center are scenes from the Old Testament: Adam and Eve, Eve tempted by the serpent, Eve giving Adam the apple, and, finally, Adam and Eve running out of the Garden of Eden. Appliquéd motifs of birds, butterflies, flowers, and fruit trees are interspersed. A flowering vine that grows from a double trunk at the bottom of the quilt frames the vignettes, leaving a space at the top. The scalloped edge echoes the curving vine. Plain and roller-printed cottons, and plain and checked silks are used for the appliquéd motifs, some of which are stuffed. Outline-quilting is used for the sun, moon, stars and larger flowers. The background is quilted in parallel diagonal lines, 3/8-inch apart, 8 stitches per inch.
Sylvia S. Queen was born in 1804 in Connecticut and lived for several years in Kankakee Township, LaPorte County, Indiana, where she is listed on the 1870 and 1880 censuses. From 1881 on, she lived in Olathe, Kansas. Sylvia made a will in 1891 while she was living with a granddaughter, Susan M. Sanford. The will mentioned a son, Faber M. Walker of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Born about 1829, he served in the Civil War for a short time. He was to receive “. . . the sum of one dollar . . . having received before this all I intended to give [him] . . .” Sylvia’s will states that most of her belongings were to go to her granddaughter “. . . if she lives with and takes care of me, as she has done ever since she came to live with me in the month of April 1891, as long as I live.” According to Sylvia’s obituary in the Olathe Mirror May 14, 1896, she had “been an invalid for a number of years . . . She was possessed of some ability as a poet and many of her friends have her writings as mementos . . . . She was an ardent Christian and gave liberally to the church.” Sylvia died May 9, 1896, at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Sanford, and is buried in the Olathe Cemetery in Kansas.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Queen, Sylvia S.
Physical Description
fabric, cotton, silk (overall material)
thread, cotton, silk (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 86 in x 75 in; 217 cm x 190 cm
place made
United States: Kansas, Olathe
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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 Mrs. Dorothy Diffey Bledsoe
Additional Media

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