1965 - 1975 Welthea Thoday's World War II Friendship Quilt

1965 - 1975 Welthea Thoday's World War II Friendship Quilt

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In the early 1940s Welthea B. Thoday sent squares of white cotton fabric to friends, family members, and coworkers and asked that each make a block for a World War II quilt. Many of the blocks she collected contain significant dates and slogans that were popular during the period, such as “Keep em Flying” or “AMERICA IN THE AIR ON LAND ON SEA” or “Save Paper – Tin – Grease.” Other quilt blocks depict the Four Freedoms, flags, and other iconic symbols.
In a small booklet, “Record of World War II Historical Quilt,” Welthea Thoday identified and sketched each of the quilt square contributions and noted the significance and symbolism of the designs. The World War II Friendship Quilt was exhibited at several 1976 Bicentennial events.
The colors red, white, and blue dominate on this patriotic commemorative quilt. First planned in the early 1940s, the quilt was completed in the 1970s. Welthea made the central panel, copying the design from a three-cent postage stamp that was introduced on July 4, 1942. It depicts an American eagle with its wings outstretched to form a large “V” (for Victory). The eagle is surrounded by thirteen stars and a “Win the War” banner is unfurled across its breast. Around this central panel, Welthea arranged thirty-two of the pieced, appliquéd, and embroidered blocks that she had received from friends and family. Placement of the four red-and-white symbolic squares in the corners (the cross, feather, “V” and star) gives a sense of order to the other twenty-eight individually designed blocks.
Born in 1896 in Scituate, Massachusetts, Welthea B. Thoday began her career as a stenographer for a Boston automobile insurance company in 1914. In 1928 she entered the field of advertising and was one of the first women to do announcing and writing for a radio sales program. She retired at the age of 74, after twenty years as a textile editor for a Boston textile publishing company.
When Welthea was 100 years old, she was interviewed by her niece, Susan McKanna. In the taped interview, she discussed the original idea for the quilt, recalling the many government programs that were being promoted during World War II and the idea that it would be “nice to make a record of them.” In 1998, at the age of 102, Welthea Thoday died. Preserved in needle and thread, pen and ink, her World War II Friendship Quilt and the booklet “Record of World War II Historical Quilt,” together provide a vivid commentary on the period.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Thoday, Welthea B.
place made
United States: Massachusetts
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, polyester (overall material)
overall: 71 in x 50 in; 180 cm x 127 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Welthea B. Thoday
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Government, Politics, and Reform
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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"This is aunt Welthea's great,great. Nephew Thank you for taking care of her Quilt It meant a great deal to her!"

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