1843 Hannah Nicholson's Album Quilt

1843 Hannah Nicholson's Album Quilt

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Members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, presented Hannah C. Nicholson with this album quilt made in 1843. She was 19 years old at the time and would shortly marry Howell Grave in 1845. A descendent wrote at the time of donation: “The quilt has been carefully tended since that time and regarded as an heirloom by our family.”
In the mid-nineteenth century, album quilts with inscriptions and signatures were often made to celebrate an important event, and provide a textile record of friends and family. The forty-one appliquéd blocks and one inked block on this quilt are inscribed with names, dates, and places. Names of Hannah’s paternal relatives, Nicholson, Miller, Biddle, and Parrish, predominate.
The quilt’s inscriptions indicate that some blocks were contributed by women in the name of relatives or young children, e.g. “for her brother” or “for her daughter.” When the block was for a son or daughter, the age was also added. The dates are given in the style of month, date and year with many of them just “8 Mo 1843.” Most of the places inked on the blocks are from the Philadelphia area, with a few from New Jersey (Woodbury, Bordentown, Pleasant Hill, and Salem). Although Hannah was born and lived in Indiana, her father was from New Jersey.
The quilt is composed of forty-nine pieced and appliquéd blocks. The blocks are made with glazed, unglazed, and roller-printed cottons. These were joined by a 2 ½-inch glazed printed-stripe sashing. The same printed cotton is used for the border, providing a cohesive grid-like framework for the blocks. The quilting pattern is an overall diagonal grid, quilted 8 or 9 stitches per inch.
Hannah C. Nicholson was born in Indiana on November 19, 1824, to John and Esther Nicholson. On August 14, 1845 Hannah married Howell Grave (1818-1894) in Wayne County, Indiana. Howell’s ancestors were among the earliest settlers of Indiana. His parents and grandparents arrived in the same year Indiana achieved statehood, 1816, and he was born there in 1818.
Howell and Hannah farmed in Wayne County and raised four children, three girls (Esther, Emma, and Josephine) and a son (Vernon). In the early 1860s they moved to Richmond, Indiana, where for twenty years Howell was one of the principal iron merchants in the city. By the mid-1880s he was in the insurance and real estate businesses. Two of their daughters are listed as teachers on the 1870 census, while Vernon continued to farm. After Hannah was widowed in 1894, she lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Wayne, Indiana. She died there on February 13, 1912, and is buried in the Earlham Cemetery Richmond, Indiana.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 99 in x 98 in; 251 cm x 249 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Grave
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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