1860 - 1875 Machine Quilted Quilt

The crafting of this quilt was made possible by William Grover’s 1851 invention of the double-thread chain stitch. He and William Baker were issued U.S. Patent No. 7,931 for a machine that used this stitch. The Grover and Baker Sewing Machine Co. of Boston, Mass., began manufacturing the machines in 1851, and by 1856 were producing for the home market. “Quilting on a Grover & Baker’s sewing machine, is no trouble at all, and the rapidity with which it is accomplished, enables us to apply it to many things which would cost too much time and labor for hand sewing.” ( The Ladies’ Hand Book of Fancy Ornamental Work Florence Hartley, Philadelphia, 1859.)
The most elaborate quilting of the 19th century was done by hand. It is unusual that the unknown maker of this quilt used a machine to stitch the design of each square through two layers of cotton fabric. The design areas were then stuffed with cotton fibers. The squares were sewn together by hand to make the quilt top, and an overall lining was added. The three layers were quilted by hand along each side of the seams where the squares of the quilt top were joined.
By 1870, the Grover and Baker double-thread, chain-stitch was being replaced by a lockstitch. The lockstitch machines used one-third the amount of thread and made less bulky seams. The lockstitch remains the standard stitch of home sewing machines to this day.
The motifs on this all-white quilt top are similar to those found on many of the colorful appliqué quilts of the mid-19th century. Although more complex than most of the work for which the new machines were used, the quilt’s design and the use of the Grover and Baker stitch suggest that this is an early example of machine quilting.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
overall: 76 in x 63 in; 193 cm x 159 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Domestic Furnishings
sewing machine
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Schwartz
Additional Media

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