Centennial and Patriotic Quilts
With July 4 this coming weekend, our thoughts are turning patriotic so we decided to focus on centennial and patriotic quilts for this article.
During the early 19th century, patriotic themes started appearing in all different ways. For instance, the earliest known use of the red, white and blue flag in a presidential campaign was in 1840 by William Henry Harrison in his successful, albeit short, presidential term. It wasn’t until 1912 that Congress mandated the design of the flag. Without this mandate, the design was left up to the maker and we see that during the 19th and early 20th centuries, many different forms of the flag are found. Design variations include placement of the stars, number of points on the stars, and the proportion of stars to stripes.
During the early 19th century, women began to include patriotic themes in their quilts. Symbols that classify a quilt as patriotic include the eagle, political sayings, stars, liberty bell and of course flags. With flag designs fluid during the early history of the US, it’s not surprising we see a wide variation in the flags found in quilt designs.
Centennial quilts refer specifically to the time period around 1876 when America was celebrating its 100th birthday. The printing of flags and other memorabilia for exhibitions went into high-gear, especially for the major 1876 Centennial Philadelphia Exhibition. These cotton souvenirs included flags, pictures of George Washington, buildings from the exhibit and of course eagles. Women collected these mementos and incorporated them into the design of quilts. Patriotic quilts also surged in popularity during time of war including those made for soldiers during the Civil War, World War I and World War II.
Using the number of stars in a flag on these quilts can give you some sense of the likely timing of when the materials were printed, but are not the only criteria that should be used. As with dating all quilts, the pattern, fabrics, sewing techniques (machine vs hand-sewn), batting and more should be used to determine a specific quilt’s date.
You can find many patriotic and centennial quilts on Dig Antiques. Just search for patriotic or centennial quilts.
Here are a few references used in creating this article: