1790 - 1795 Martha Soule's Crewel Embroidered Quilt

1790 - 1795 Martha Soule's Crewel Embroidered Quilt

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Information included with this quilt when it was donated to the Smithsonian in 1925 indicated that it was made by the donor’s grandmother. Martha Babson Lane Soule of Freeport, Maine, was donor Caroline M. Gordon’s grandmother. Another quilt attributed to Martha Babson Lane Soule was donated by Martha’s great-great-grandson in 1951. Both quilts have crewel work embroidery that may date to the 1790s.
The quilt top, probably an unquilted counterpane, may date from 1790 or earlier. It is embroidered with indigo-dyed crewel (2-ply worsted) yarn in a pattern of scrolling vines with fanciful flowers and leaves, emanating from a central basket. The four corner motifs are alike, and two other flowers are repeated, while all other flowers and leaves are different in design. Embroidery stitches include stem, cross, herringbone, seed, buttonhole, Roumanian, running and couching.
The foundation fabrics of the counterpane are cotton and linen/cotton. The counterpane was probably made into a quilt in the early-nineteenth century with a thin filling of carded cotton and a lining of linen/cotton and cotton fabrics. It was quilted in a chevron pattern using 2-ply cotton in a running stitch, 5 to 6 stitches per inch.
Martha Babson Lane was born December 22, 1772, in Freeport, Cumberland County, Maine. The Lane family is listed among the settlers in that area of Maine as early as the 1650s. Martha married Moses Soule on May 25, 1793. Moses farmed in the Freeport area, and was a deacon in the church and a caulker by trade.
Martha and Moses Soule had eleven children, three of whom died within a few months of each other in 1807 at ages three, five, and eight. Three other children, born later, were given their names; John/James Babson, Nancy, and Jeannette.
One son, Gideon Lane Soule (1796-1879) was the first of his four brothers to attend Phillips Exeter Academy. He later became a professor at the Academy and for thirty-five years, from 1838 to 1873, served as its principal. Under his able direction the Academy experienced increasing growth, prosperity, and prestige.
The youngest son, John Babson Lane Soule (1815-1891), after attending the Academy, graduated from Bowdoin College. Although he completed law studies, he spent his life as a teacher, journalist, and minister in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. He is noted for possibly being the originator of the popular slogan; “Go West, young man!” used in an editorial he wrote in 1851 for the Terre Haute Express which was later adopted by Horace Greeley so effectively in an 1865 New York Tribune editorial. Martha Babson Lane Soule died on December 20, 1837, and is buried in the Lane Cemetery near Freeport, Maine.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Soule, Martha Babson Lane
Physical Description
fabric, cotton, linen/cotton (overall material)
thread, wool, linen, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 84 in x 87 in; 214 cm x 220 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Caroline M. Gordon
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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