Thursday, April 10, 2014

Meanwhile in Boston

Quilt by New Yorker Mary (Betsy) Totten,
called Rising Sun in her will.
Collection of the Smithsonian Institutuion

Read more about Betsy Totten's quilt here:

During the mid-19th century, city expositions showed off the best of local industries to encourage American entrepreneurs. The mechanical institutes sponsoring the fairs encouraged ladies to visit to add a cultured tone. One incentive for women was display categories for domestic needlework production. Surviving lists of prizes and entries give us a little insight into the hot quilt designs of the era. In Baltimore in 1851 the Mathematical Star was popular.(See the last post.)

Quilt about 1840-1860 from an online auction.

Exactly what defined a mathematical star? We pattern historians guess some kind of a Star of Bethlehem----maybe any kind of a Star of Bethlehem.

Faneuil Hall, Boston, about 1890

Meanwhile in Boston, the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association listed notable entries in their fairs. In 1850:

" (#869) Mrs. Lucy A. Parker, Boston. One Patch Quilt. (Rising Sun)—contains 1,152 diamonds. The design is pretty and the work neat."

Ten years later:
(#1021) Mrs. G. A. Faxon, Boston. Patch-work Quilt. 'Rising Sun.' Very ingenious.

Interior view of a
Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association,
19th century,
The textiles above look knitted or crocheted.
Was a Rising Sun the same type of quilt described in Baltimore as a Mathematical Star?

Mid 19th century quilt from the Binney collection

It might be that Lucy Parker's "One Patch Quilt. (Rising Sun)—contains 1,152 diamonds" looked like the quilt above---a kind of concentric wheel of diamonds rather than a star of diamonds?

In my BlockBase digital program the pattern is #4006, The earliest published name I could find was Sunburst. But that name wasn't published until 1974 when Carleton Safford and Robert Bishop wrote America's Quilts and Coverlets.

I assumed they were labeling the central pattern here as Sunburst or Rising Sun,
but it the caption is vague.

Westerfield collection Brooklyn Museum

The Safford and Bishop name stuck and we still tend to call these Sunburst designs.

Quilt on the cover of the Maryland project book
A Maryland Album

Was a Mathematical Star in Baltimore the same as a Rising Sun in Boston? No answers here....but a good excuse to show more of pattern #4006.

From the Quilt Index, in the collection of the Museum of the
Daughters of the American Revolution

Unknown source, with cutout chintz
Different diamond shape from an old Quilt Engagement Calendar

From the Maine State Museum

A Philadelphia Quaker named Rebecca Scattergood Savery
has four of #4006 attributed to her hand, the one
above from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This one from the WinterthurMuseum

You see the pattern continuing into the end of the 19th century.

From an online auction as are the others below.

The Amish picked the pattern up and took it in new directions.


  1. Amazing examples and amazing quilts. I cannot imagine piecing that many pieces with points, lol.


  2. It is so interesting to see how the same pattern in the same medium can be expressed in so many different ways.

  3. 4006 is on my To Do list....may have to move it to the top now. I love the visual it creates. WOW! Happy Saturday!

  4. Denniele---it must be easy---it's just one piece---