What do you call this design?
Collector Bill Volkening has been specializing in the pattern.
Volkening's Collection on display
Here's what he says:
In an essay online at the Quilt Index Leslie Jenison writes about the names:
"The New York Beauty quilt was known by several names in the nineteenth century: "Rocky Mountain Road", "Rocky Mountain", ”Rail Through The Mountains”, "Crown of Thorns", and "The Great Divide". In the 1930s, the “New York Beauty” title was adopted by Stearns and Foster Mountain Mist® company for an old quilt pattern to be published as a new design. It hadn’t been popular in New York in the previous century, but it was in Tennessee."
Jenison shows this quilt discovered in the Kentucky
Quilt Project. The family's name:
President Polk in the White House.
James K. Polk from Tennessee successfully
ran for President in 1844.
See a Polk biography here:
And see the form on the quilt above at the Quilt Index
My Tennessee friends Merikay Waldvogel and Bets Ramsey were surprised at the number and variety of quilts in the design they found in their Quilts of Tennessee project in the 1980s. In their 1986 book The Quilts of Tennessee they counted the Log Cabin as the most popular antique quilt they saw, the Nine-Patch second and the Rocky Mountain (or New York Beauty) third.
Nineteenth-century names for this pattern became a favorite topic of discussion among pattern historians in the late 20th century. Our conclusion, expressed in Merikay's 1990 book Soft Covers for Hard Times (page 21):
"This pattern [for the cover quilt] was commonly called Rocky Mountain Road or Crown of Thorns in the 1800s in the South. When the pattern was printed commercially in the twentieth century it was renamed New York Beauty."
The Mountain Mist pattern company still
sells the pattern for New York Beauty
But our conclusion has been called into question by a recent find by
Vicki Betts of the University of Texas at Tyler Library.
In transcribing a Texas diary from 1854 she found remarkable references to a quilt pattern name:
"Oct. 29 Going to put in my New York beauty tomorrow if nothing happens to hinder
Monday Oct. 30th put in the New York Beauty but only began to quilt"
More in the next post!