Here's a quilt advertised in the past year or so on an online auction as a "Birthday Cake."
Does that say Dad in the lower right hand corner with a date of 1928?
I hate to spoil the party but the pattern was not meant to be the least bit festive.
It appeared in the Ohio Farmer magazine about 1890 with the name "The Monument." It was a memorial pattern. You could put Dad's name in there and the date he died.
Here's another one recently advertised as a "Birthday Cake."
The quilt top looks to date from about 1900 when the maker might have had access to the magazine with the design.
Or the pattern may have been passed around and modified a bit.
Here's one in somber tones, a slight variation with a curved top to the grave stone.
Quite a few were made.
Skinner Auctions advertised this one as Wedding Cake or Garfield's Monument
The Ladies' Art Company sold quilt patterns in the 1890s and called this one "Garfield's Monument."
It commemorated President James Garfield who was assassinated in 1881.
The patchwork pattern may have been inspired by his tomb and monument in Ohio.
It's always easy to interpret quilts through our own culture and forget about the culture of the past.
Garfield's death was, as we can imagine, a traumatic national event.
See another "Garfield's Monument" quilt in the Quilt Index by clicking here:
Birthday Cake by Bobbi Finley, 2009
Designed by Barbara Brackman
Not that a birthday cake quilt is a bad idea.
Just don't jump to conclusions in interpreting long-ago quilters' intent.