Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hewson Textiles and Cuesta's Lists

John Hewson was a fabric printer in Philadelphia from 1774 to about 1810. He is best known for panels featuring a a floral bouquet in a footed urn surrounded by butterflies and birds. The panels were popular enough that many have survived in quilts and coverlets.

In 1999 I corresponded with a New Mexico family that inherited a previously undocumented quilt with a Hewson panel. I should have rushed to New Mexico when I received a snapshot in the mail ten years ago and photographed that quilt in better light on a quilt rack, but I didn't. Later efforts to find it have been futile. My correspondent has since died, but she knew it was a Hewson panel and I am optimistic the quilt is in good hands. As far as I know, this is the first time the quilt has been published.

Toile quilt with Hewson panel. Estimated date: 1780-1810. The panel is set in a border of faded pink calico triangles with Hewson birds in the corners. The outer border is a pink toile, a large-scale aborescent (tree) print with birds.

At the American Quilt Study Group seminar last month I organized a roundtable discussion about John Hewson and America's Earliest Calico Printers. You can read the handouts describing Hewson's legend and life and lists of the other printers on my webpage. There are also links to pictures of several Hewson quilts in museum collections. Here's a link to my page on Quilt History.

Quilt historian Cuesta Benberry loved making lists and she kept an ongoing index of Hewson quilts. The last list I find in her correspondence, dated 1994, listed 17 Hewson textiles, far more objects than attributed to any other eighteenth-century American manufacturer. In 2008 Kimberly Wulfert published her list of 28 surviving textiles attributed to Hewson.

The pictured toile quilt brings the number of attributions to 29. At the AQSG meeting a friend mentioned she had recently noticed a quilt with a panel in a museum collection, where the staff were unaware of the fabric's origins. This makes 30 Hewson textiles. Cuesta would have been thrilled to add to her list.

Cuesta Benberry in 2006 with a Pineburr quilt at the St. Louis Art Museum

Click here to see a Hewson quilt in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

The Museum at Michigan State University will open an exhibit about Cuesta Benberry's research called Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, An African American Quilt Scholar on December 6, 2009. Their website describes it: "An overview of the collections of one of America's important collector/scholars ... a selection of textiles, rare books, patterns, ephemera, and samples of her personal journals, correspondence, and extensive research files." After this installation in the Heritage Gallery the exhibit will begin a national tour. Click here for information:


Kimberly Wulfert has a page on her website devoted to Hewson. Click here:

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I came across your site. I have enjoyed reading about the antique quilts that you have on Hewson.