Harriet Bradbury Rich wrote in 1948 that she was "pleased and proud" to donate this "memento of the First Centennial Exhibition of the United States of America." Her father, John Henry Bradbury, had been a merchant in the dry goods wholesale trade in New York and his firm received samples from the manufacturers commemorating the first one hundred years of nationhood that was celebrated at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia. At the age of twelve Harriet Bradbury along with her mother, Emily Bradbury, and her grandmother, Maria Silsby, assembled the commemorative fabric samples to make this patriotic quilt. The quilt was made at the Bradbury home in Charleston, New Hampshire, the fourth settlement on the Connecticut River, dating back to the French and Indian Wars.
Printed fabrics with patriotic motifs were popular in America before the 1876 Centennial but the major exposition in Philadelphia provided the textile companies with an incentive to produce many new fabrics. The utilization in this quilt of the small sample pieces that Mr. Bradbury brought back to his family provides an index of fabrics for that period. There are twenty-six roller-printed cottons and five plate or roller-printed bandannas or banners in the quilt. Many of these are printed with the dates 1876 or 1776-1876 or the word centennial. Patriotic motifs of eagles, flags, liberty caps, muskets, stars, cannonballs, liberty bells as well as portraits of George and Martha Washington and Lafayette are found in the various fabric designs. One particular striped design honors Martha Washington as it was copied from the fabric of a favorite gown of hers, the bodice of which is still at Mount Vernon, Virginia. The center of the back of the quilt contains a cotton kerchief that contains the text of the Declaration of Independence surrounded by the Liberty Bell and the seals of thirteen colonies linked by the names of the patriots of the Revolutionary cause.
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