Historic American Quilts

Late 19th Century Quilts, 1850-1910

Three major inventions dominated the making of quilts in this era. The first is rather a combination of inventors who worked to build sewing machines before 1850, culminating in the final popular use of the Howe and Singer sewing machines after 1850. Singer was the first with the treadle machine. The quilt historian can tell when this was used in a quilt by a line of stitching with irregular stitches. Ah Ha! A treadle machine! Puts it in a certain era. Later quilters sometimes used both electric sewing, machines and hand quilting in the same quilt. It was easier to use the machines for long borders or sashing, while many quilters persisted in piecing their patterns by hand.

The second invention was that of the first synthetic dye made of coal tar, believe it or not, which led to Perkins Purple and then many other synthetic shades of colors Queen Victoria was very happy with Perkins Purple and it became quite popular due to her lead in fashion. The grand result in the 20th century was the DuPont Chemical Company.. But you can imagine that coal tar was the start of making the myriad of synthetic colors that we know today.

Thirdly, although not an invention, a New England burgeoning manufacturing process produced cotton print fabrics that delighted quilt makers across the country. Using new dye processes, cotton calico prints were made in large quantities, colors and patterns.. This not only helped quilters reproduce Colonial quilts but created a new increase in the imaginations and artistic abilities of quilt makers into the next century.


Vase or Basket with Handles and Triangles Charm Quilt 1860-1880 Illinois





751 Vase or Basket with Handles and Triangles, Charm Quilt, 70 x84, 1860-1880, Illinois. Six baskets across and three facing up and three facing down. The set blocks are butterscotch with a white weave, while the colors of the baskets are reds, madders, blues, green drabs and gray prints, all different. The backing is muslin , and the binding is the front fabric taken to the back in a narrow trim. This is all hand pieced. The quilting is 8-9 st/in and 1/2 in apart. This quilt is in excellent condition and is a good example of the unusual color of the era and an unusual variation of the basket pattern. I'm sorry the pictures don't do it justice because I had to take them indoors due to the beastly weather, but I think you will love the quilt. $695



Oak Leaf Variation1860-1880 found in Illinois



619 Oak Leaf Variation, 1860-1880, 76x86, found in Illinois. Entirely hand pieced (including the triple border and binding!), appliqued and thoroughly expertly quilted. The Turkey red, chrome orange and overdyed green are all in good condition, The complex quilting is at 9st/inch in grids, circles, arcs and double-lined wreaths with cherry-like circles rather than feathers. The backing is white and the binding is green. The applique stitches are so tiny, it is hard to distinguish them. This is quilting in mid-19th century at its finest and compares well to that of the Baltimore Albums in execution. The back has stains, and there is slight foxing and very small brown stains on the front. $850.



Four Patch Quilt 1870-1885 c



614 Four Patch, 1870-1885, 75x78. This quilt is doubly interesting. It is very graphic and also has some beautiful fabrics. Its yellow-based four-patch rows alternate with several rows of plain indigo and varied four-patches of madder, Lancaster blue, double pink, green with yellow, red with yellow, blue print stripe, etc. etc. The border is a wonderful madder paisley, and the backing alternates Lancaster blue with the same or similar paisley print. The quilting is about 6-7 st/inch in square grids. This is all hand-pieced, including the straight edges of the border and the backing! The binding is worn, some of the patches are netted over, there is at least one small rip repair, and, most unfortunately, the paisley has run in blotches on the backing and on some small areas of the front. Although the photos make the quilts look faded; it is not, the colors are very strong. You've got to love this one! $900


lFox and Geese Quilt ca 1880 Illinois



736 Fox and Geese, 79x71, ca 1880, from neighbor's grandfather in Toulon, Illinois. Navy and very small polka dots on white baciground, white backing, 1/4 in. white binding, 3 in. Navy border. Triple line quilting acoss pattern, Grid of 1/2 in. is elsewhere quilted @ 10 st/in. Round corners. Excellent quilt with a few smudges to be washed out. Pattern is in Finley (1919), but therre is a signature in ink on the back" JE 12".The triple line quilting indicates around 1880. If you want a traditional quilt with excellent quilting and in excellent condition, this is it. $850



Flying Geese Quilt 1860-1890


Flying Geese


Flying Geese

724 Flying Geese, 66x74, 1860-1890. The "geese" are a delightful variety of brown and white plaids, squiggles, tiny florals, geometrics, and odd ribbons, with other colors thrown in. There are some reds on white background and a few rose prints. The sashing is navy with white polka dots, and this contrasts with the triangles in a most pleasing way.The applied binding is navy with small white stars; the backing is a charming old tan and off-white swirly print. The quilting is 8 st/in following the seams and in diagonals in the sashing. The pieces are early machine-stitched. The fabrics are in very good condition; there is a cup-sized stain on the backing, but the condition of the top is very good. This quilt looks good just about anywhere and will go with just about everything. $600.



Double Irish Chain Quilt  Illinois ca1880



711 Double Irish Chain, 70x89, Illinois, ca1880. All hand stitched, including the binding. This is Turkey red and faded green against a white background with white backing. The binding is faded green. The fading of the green indicates a synthetic dye was used. The squares are 13/8 each side and the quilting through them is 7 st/in in diagonal lines about 1/4 in apart. The ground has 1in diameter cicrcles . The binding is 3/8 in wide and hand applied. The quilt is in excellent condition. It adds spark, yet gentleness to a room and goes well with any floral. $795


Mennonite Nine-Patch Quilt from Goshen ca 1880




729 Mennonite Nine-Patch from Goshen, 67x82, ca 1880. Unusual crosshatch woven fabric in teal blue as background and some of patches. Other patches are brown and mauve, coral, forest green, pale green, green and white striped. The backing is striped coral on tan with brown wheat sheaves. The 1/4 -3/8 in. applied binding is striped coral. There is a cocoa border inside the background border. The quilting at 9 st/in is in diamonds in the patches and double diagonals elsewhere. $650


Jacob's Ladder Doll Quilt Blue and White


754, Jacob's Ladder doll quilt, 25x25, probably cut down from an 1890 quilt, Illinois. This has different shades of blue against the white. It is hand pieced and the quilting is done as four tulips if you look at the back, 7-8 st/in. The cut edges have been herringbone stitched and then the ecru embroidery attached. It is in very good condition and quite charming. $110



Silk Square in a Square in a Square with Triangles Quilt ca 1900

685 Silk Square in a Square in a Square with Triangles, ca 1900, 88x72. This probably has some other name but I haven't found it yet. Center squares are black and the rest is multi-colored with lots of red and fuchsia. There is a 3in. black border and an added black silk binding. The backing is a silk tan polka dot fabric on white.The quilt is all hand pieced and quilted. $800



Philadelphia Pavement Quilt, ca 1900


610 Philadelphia Pavement, ca 1900, 80x80. This is a twenty-five-patch of madder prints, shirtings, indigo prints and double pinks plus the red and white checked corner stones. There are horseshoes, paislies, woven plaids, checks and complex stripes. It is very graphic, yet it is fun to examine each different print in more detail.The backing is muslin, which comes to the front as the binding. The quilting, at about 8st/inch, is in square grids, small diamonds, parallel lines, contours and those interesting reverse arcs in the cornerstones. It has a hanging strip. The fabrics are all intact,, and the quilt is very clean with only one patch that has bled slightly onto the adjacent shirting fabric. Great for hanging or on your favorite bed. $950



Delectable Mountains Variation Mennonite  Quilt ca 1890 York County PA Green and Red 

391 Delectable Mountains Variation, Mennonite, ca 1890, 78x88, York County, PA. This strikingly graphic quilt is made with sateen-weave forest green and turkey red cotton. There is a double border, and the backing is green. The quilting is excellent at 10-11 st/in with green thread. The motifs are feather branches and diamonds on the borders and double parallel lines in the body. There are several light spots on the top, as can be seen in the full photo, and there is one fabric repair, otherwise it is in excellent condition. This is a Mennonite quilt of complex piecing from the traditional era of quilt-making. $1050.



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