Artist/maker unknown, American

Made in Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Cotton plain weave with plain and roller-printed cotton appliqué with quilting in running stitch

7 feet 7 inches × 7 feet 3 inches (231.1 × 221 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Titus C. Geesey Collection, 1955

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american textiles [x]   bird [x]   eagle [x]   flowers [x]  

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Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu� Quilts

    This lightweight summer bedcover is one of several with such close similarities in the shape and arrangement of the eagle and floral motifs as to suggest either their production by the same person or the existence of a published pattern source for this design. Beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, women's periodicals such as the Ladies' Home Journal printed instructions and designs for quilts. Various quilt patterns derived from folk and traditional sources came to be standardized by the circulation of such material.1

    The eagle had long been an important political and religious symbol in Germanic cultures, endowed with a variety of meanings over the centuries. In early German Reformed literature, with wings spread it symbolized God's protection of the faithful and the assurance of salvation as a reward for purity and charity. The traditional southern German doppel adler, or "double-headed eagle" as well as the more Americanized shield-breasted version seen on this bedcover, were common decorative motifs found on a variety of Pennsylvania German arts. The use of the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States, adopted in 1784, further insured its popularity in both academic and folk artistic circles.

    The arrangement and types of appliqués on this bedcover also indicate strong ties to Germanic traditions. The pronounced symmetry of its overall composition, which is delineated into pattern fields by ribbon-like strips of applied fabric, is related to both German and Pennsylvania German designs on inlaid furniture, fraktur, and household textiles. The flower-form urn from which a profusion of both fully opened and budding flowers emerge is also a popular Germanic symbol of birth, abundance, and the stages of life. Of particular interest is the unusual use of appliqué for the initials MDD, since inscriptions were most often added to quilts with calligraphy, embroidery, or stencilling. Jack L. Lindsey, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 40.

    1. Virginia Gunn, "Template Quilt Construction and Its Offshoots," in Pieced by Mother, ed. Jeannette Lasansky (Lewisburg, Pa., 1987), pp. 69-75.