Crazy Quilt by Sarah Frances Coolidge,
date inscribed 1882, from Copake Auction House
In my 1989 book Clues in the Calico I wrote:
Crazy Quilts are so recognizable and so commonplace they are among the easiest quilts to learn to date, especially since there is a simple rule: There were no Crazy Quilts made before the late 1870s.... Because women made so many Crazy Quilts, and because they dated them (they are among the most commonly dated style of quilt), we can track the trend well through the dated examples.
Crazy Quilt date-inscribed 1885, from dealer Laura Fisher
In the past twenty years I've seen a lot more crazy quilts. I still agree with my younger self: There were no crazy quilts before the late 1870s. But now that I've seen so many more I am going to narrow that time frame and say there were no crazy quilts before 1880.
Crazy quilt date-inscribed 1900
Here are the statistics from the database I created 20 years ago:
There were 97 date-inscribed Crazy Quilts in the database.The earliest of the 97 were three examples dated 1882.
For the years between 1882 and 1889, I found 36 examples.
In the decade 1890-99 there were 29....
Detail of a Crazy Quilt dated 1882 in ink
Crazy Quilt date-inscribed 1892
In that database I found some outliers. In statistics an outlier is defined as
An outlying observation, one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs.
In Clues in the Calico, I said that I eliminated two quilts from the database, two crazies date-inscribed 1846 and 1868. These dates were so far earlier than the rest of the 67 quilts that I felt I had to eliminate them as outliers. Those dates were so markedly deviant that they would lead us to false conclusions. The dates may have been altered, added later or commemorative of a birthdate or other year rather than the year the quilt was made.
I do recall seeing one Crazy Quilt dated 1691 when we were doing the Kansas Quilt Project. Someone had picked out the embroidery changing the second numeral, an 8, into a 6. This was also an outlier and I ignored it.
The tied quilt was wool and wool blends, rather minimally embroidered, the kind you often find dated about 1900. A few of the blocks had words or dates on them.
I think the date February 17th, 1874 is commemorative and it has something to do with Mamma, possibly the day she died.
So I am sticking to my 1880 guideline.
I'll post more about outliers in my next post.