1850 - 1860 Susan Holbert's "Little Sister's Quilt"

1850 - 1860 Susan Holbert's "Little Sister's Quilt"

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Stenciled in the center of the lining of this quilt is “S. T. Holbert” which stands for Susan Theresa Holbert. Her older sister, Emily, made another quilt in the Smithsonian’s collection, the “Vanity of Vanities” quilt.” Might Emily have made this quilt for her younger sister as well? Or were they both accomplished quilt makers?
The center of the quilt is a sunburst or star 26½ inches in diameter, pieced of triangles and diamonds. Sixteen appliquéd feathered plumes emerge from the outer edge of the sunburst. Between the plumes are sixteen small 4-inch pieced sunbursts. A 3/8-inch band of red cotton print separates the field from the border. Along the inner edge of this band are birds with flowers and buds, and in each of the four inner corners is a pieced and appliquéd “Carolina Lily” block. The 7½-inch border contains an appliquéd undulating oak leaf vine.
The fabrics used are roller- and discharge-printed cottons. The quilt has a filling of cotton with a white cotton lining. All the pieced and appliquéd motifs have double-outline quilting and the open spaces are filled with motifs of flowers, running vines, leaves, sprigs, fleur-de-lis, botehs, and hearts; each quilted 8 stitches to the inch. This quilt’s dramatic design incorporates a popular mid-19th century motif: plumes or the “Princess Feather” pattern, in the then-fashionable red and green color combination.
Susan Theresa Holbert was born in Chester, Orange County, New York, on February 24, 1834. She was the daughter of James Holbert, a farmer, and Susan Drake Holbert. They had another daughter, Teresa, who died in 1816 at the age of three and Susan was probably named after her. Susan married William Alfred Lawrence in 1861, and they had a son, Theodore (1862-1947). Susan died in 1871. This quilt was donated to the Smithsonian by Mr. and Mrs. John Beard Ecker. Mrs Theodora Ecker is Susan’s granddaughter. At the same time another quilt from the same family, Emily Holbert’s “Vanity of Vanities” quilt, was also donated to the Smithsonian.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Holbert, Susan
Holbert, Emily
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 92 in x 85 in; 235 cm x 215 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Beard Ecker
Sewing and Knitting
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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"It is also fascinating to note that Susan Holbert's husband, William A Lawrence, of Chester, NY, is credited as the first maker and manufacturer of cream cheese in the United States. "

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