Four Patch Quilt
82" x 88"
I saw this quilt recently in an online auction where it was advertised as a Civil War quilt dated 1865. Right away the style made me wonder how accurate that date was. I found that the date is on a note attached to the quilt. I keep a file of quilts with dates inscribed on them and I've learned to ignore quilts dated in a note or label rather than on the quilt.
Fifteen years ago, the seller bought the Four Patch from a friend, a niece of Sarah Elizabeth Lowe (1845-1916). The niece had written the note. She wasn't sure of the quilt's exact date but thought it had been made near the end of the Civil War.
The seller provided many good pictures of the fabric, which made the quilt's actual date rather easy to
The first thing to note is the presence of a black on white, silvery gray fabric.
These prints offer a basic clue to quilt dating. They were not printed before 1890 or so.
A second good clue: claret red prints. Again, these simple white
on wine red prints were abundant after 1890 but not seen before that.
The backing also offers a clue. You may not be able to see it
but an enlargement reveals that it is a gauzy muslin, the kind
of fabric I grew up calling unbleached muslin
This is a backing you do not see in the mid-19th century.
It's far more common in the early to mid-20th century.
It has fine yarns and few threads per square inch.
The embroidered M (or is it a W?) is a mystery.
I found a little about Sarah Elizabeth Graves Lowe at the website Find A Grave, She is buried in Washington County, Kentucky, where she apparently spent her whole life. She was born November 8, 1845 and died March 16, 1916 at 69 years old. She might have made this quilt towards the end of her life, sometime between 1890 and 1916.
Her nickname was Bet. She had six children, one with the lovely name of Zanie Bugg. Bet may have made this quilt for Mary Etta if that's an M..
William Schyluar Lowe (1866 - 1929)
Mary Etta Russell (1868 - 1950)
James M. Lowe (1870 - 1881)
Gertie Lowe Russell (1880 - 1944)
Elmer Eugene Lowe (1884 - 1964)
Zanie Lowe Bugg (1890 - 1975)
Well I've gotten off on a tangent with Zanie Bugg.
We can learn a few things from the quilt and its note.
1) Always be skeptical of a date on a note or a label. A well-meaning descendant can be quite inaccurate.
2) Black and claret cotton prints are excellent clues to dates after 1890. You do not find those prints in mid-century quilts.
Album quilt date-inscribed 1899
Michigan Quilt Project, picture from the QuiltIndex
Diamond four patch date-inscribed 1909
See more about black cotton prints at my Civil War blog this week:
I'll discuss the claret reds next Wednesday (October 7)
on my Civil War Quilts blog.