1790 - 1810 Copp Family's Framed Center Pieced Quilt

1790 - 1810 Copp Family's Framed Center Pieced Quilt

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This pieced-work example is one of three late-eighteenth-and-early nineteenth-century quilts that were donated in the 1890s by John Brenton Copp of Stonington, Connecticut. All are a part of an extensive gift of household textiles, costume items, furniture and other objects that belonged to his family from 1750 to 1850. The Copp Collection continues to provide insights into New England family life of that period.
The arrangement of the pattern of this quilt is one found frequently in eighteenth-century and early-nineteenth-century quilts, a succession of borders framing a center panel of pieced work. A view of the pieced center of this quilt seen from the right side, suggests the shape of a tree, and the printed fabrics repeat in mirror fashion in each row about ninety percent of the time. Perhaps the center was erroneously placed in this direction, or it was meant to be viewed from the bedside. The lining is pieced of much-mended linen and cotton fabrics that originally were probably sheets. On one piece, the initials “HV” are cross-stitched in tan silk thread. It is quilted in an overall herringbone pattern, 5 or 6 stitches per inch.
The clothing and furnishing fabrics used in the quilt top span a period of about forty years. This, and the fact that the Copp family was in the dry goods business, may explain why the quilt includes more than one hundred and fifty different printed, woven-patterned, and plain fabrics of cotton, linen and silk. Although the array of fabrics is extravagant, economy is evident in the use of even the smallest scraps. Many blocks in the quilt pattern are composed of several smaller, irregularly shaped pieces. Two dresses, in the Copp Collection, one from about 1800 and the other from about 1815, are made of fabrics that appear in the quilt.
An analysis of the household textile collection donated by John Brenton Copp can be found in the Copp Family Textiles by Grace Rogers Cooper (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1971). In the book the author summarizes the family background. “The first Copp to reach America was William, a 26-year-old London shoemaker who in 1635 set out for the Massachusetts Colony on the good ship Blessing. He landed east of Boston and became the first owner of Copp’s Hill in north Boston.... William’s son Jonathan established the Connecticut branch of the family around Stonington later in the seventeenth century. Many of his male descendents gained comfortable prosperity as merchants and businessmen, while their wives and daughters led full lives as mothers of the large families in which education and refinement were encouraged.... The long succession of Jonathans, Samuels, Catherines, Esters, Marys, and Sarahs makes it rather difficult to set in order the generations and their contributions to the collection.” The exact maker of this quilt is unidentified, but it was probably made by one or more members of the Copp household.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Copp Family
place made
United States: Connecticut, Stonington
Physical Description
fabric, cotton, linen, cotton/linen, linen/silk (overall material)
thread, linen, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 84 in x 81in; 214 cm x 205 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of John Brenton Copp
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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My family moved to Rockville, MD in 1961. Mom’s parents, Donald William Lester Copp, and his wife, Viola Anna Elizabeth Junklaus Copp, came to visit. We took them to the Smithsonian Castle which at that carried many displays. We walked into the room where a large grouping of Copp items were on exhibit, including silohouettes were on the wall and there was Grandpa Copp’s visage! We were all surprised and I wish we could see it on display again. Thanks for making 3 young kids see that their family was a historical interest.
Visited with my Father and Aunt to see this quilt in the archives (which I had copied from a photograph in a magazine). It was so beautiful and the Smithsonian conservators were very gracious to help us view. I am quilting my own version by hand to match the original's stitching. Thank you so much.
"Thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful information on the Copp Quilt together with the excellent detailed, clear, close-up shots of some of the wonderful early fabrics. Surprised to see the green-ground anchor print, the earliest conversation print found in my research notes."

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