Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dahlia Bouquet Chintz: Another Ubiquitous Fabric

(1) Cut-out-chintz block attributed to the Boyle Sisters of Petersburg, [West] Virginia,
who had a professional quiltmaking workshop there.

Two of their quilts are in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg and both
feature this Broderie Perse bouquet.
(1) & (2) Pair of quilts by the Boyle Sisters.
Collection of Colonial Williamsburg

If the Boyles made two such quilts for hire there might be more Boyle quilts out there. I decided to
focus on the repeating bouquet at the top of the page here in looking for their distinctive style. It looks like a dahlia to me....

I asked botanist/quilter Terry Terrell and she agreed it seems to be a dahlia.

(3) Detail from Metropolitan Museum quilt #1973.204

The most distinctive feature in the bouquet is the white dahlia with petals outlined heavily
and a center area that looks like a smudge from a distance. Buds arcing off to the top create a distinctive silhouette.

I've spent a few months looking for the print in quilts and yardage. I found a ridiculous number of quilts with the dahlia bouquet---29 so far. Each is numbered in the order I found them but out of order here.

I only found one star quilt---
(3) The Metropolitan Museum's star, which they purchased with
little provenance. Bouquets on the N/S axis are the dahlia print.

I found the bouquet mostly in album samplers with cut-out-chintz/Broderie Perse blocks.

Like (4) made by Quaker Friends of Hannah Nicholson Grave 
(Philadelphia Museum of Art.)


(4) It's the same bouquet at a different angle---minus the appendage

Finding a repeat of the yardage was not so easy as finding just the bouquet.

(5) Another Philadelphia example

The bouquet is part of an arborescent print (flowering tree imagery) with a fancy machine ground (textured background of fine lines & dots.)

(5) Quilt dated 1841 for Miss Jane Gordon. Philadelphia Museum of Art

This pieced and appliqued quilt is a great opportunity to figure out the repeat, so I Photoshopped a few of the alternate blocks together and found they are all essentially the same cut, with some of the repeat missing.

(5) Very mysterious. Where is the rest of the yardage?

(20 ) This is the largest piece I've seen of the repeat, a dahlia bouquet
floating on an arborescent (tree-limb) print. Terry spotted this in a Goose Chase 
quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

(20) 1997-007-0486

(10) Medallion by Jane W. Leche, Virginia Quilt Museum,
made in Baltimore.

(10) Chintz Medallion Quilt for the Virginia Quilt Museum
A few years ago the Museum did a repro of the fabric from the Leche quilt.
This shows the fancy machine background (a complex pattern of lines.) 

The Broderie Perse in the Met Museum's star is very carefully cut
out of that figured background---or there was a second colorway with
a white ground.

UPDATE: Cathy Erickson posted photos of the details in her quilt (#12)  and it is obvious there was a colorway with a plain white background. Maybe the reason I can't find a photo of that yardage is that it was all cut up for albums.

(6) Tree-of-Life chintz quilt in the MESDA collection above has a bouquet blooming on a branch.

(6) Catherine Couturier Marion Palmer (1807-1895)
Berkeley County, South Carolina
Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts MESDA

(7) A second Tree of Life, probably from South Carolina,
#HT 585 in the Charleston Museum collection.

The dahlia in the lower left, photo rotated. It's just above
Swainson's palm tree in the lower corner of the quilt.

Below, another chintz quilt, this one a block sampler
in which there are two blocks cut from the dahlia print.


Number 8 was pictured in a Quilt Engagement Calendar
years ago. It may now be in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

And a lot of peacocks

In the Monroe album (9):
 Identical blocks with added conventional applique in the corners,
a little update as fashion changed.

(9) Made for Rev. Thomas Harrison West Monroe,
1846-1847, collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

Monroe's quilt includes signatures from women in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, places he'd been a Methodist minister. Note the Sons of Temperance triangle logo in the corner.

(11) Album from New Jersey in the collection of the International Quilt
Study Center & Museum, dated 1852...

 from Freehold Baptist Church members
in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Block is second row, right.

(12) In an album dated 1844-1847 from an auction in Maryland.
This particular block has an extra orange floral added.

The quilt top has 8 blocks of the dahlia chintz.
It's now in Cathy Erickson's collection.

(26) Chintz quilt with Queen Victoria print in the center
Collection of IQSCM #1997_007_0479 
One block

(13) Album by Harriet Shinn Miller (1817-). Collection of Joyce Fullerton Smith.

(13) Dated 1841-1843. The block is in row 6 on the left side (6A), signed by
Lucy Ridgway, Clover Hill, New Jersey and dated 1842.

(23) Dated 1843, Sarah Morrell, Pennsylvania & New Jersey
American Museum of Folk Art. 

(24) Sarah Flickwir's quilt, dated 1840-1846, 
Philadelphia Museum Art Collection. 
 Joyce Fullerton Smith tells me many relatives
 worked on 13 & 24 . I'm looking forward
to a paper she is working on.

(22) Mary Videau Yeadon's quilt, Greenville, South Carolina
IQSCM #2006.003.0005. Two blocks.

These blocks are quite elaborate with additional
birds from other chintzes.

Below another elaborate block, a wreath.

(21) Center top row of a spectacular chintz album, again in the
 Philadelphia Museum of Art 


(19) IQSCM collection:

(19)  apparently includes only 2 names:
 "Lily Corliss 1842 + Lydia Corliss 1843"
When dealers Joel & Kate Kopp first advertised it 30 years ago
they attributed it to Maryland.

(28) Recently up for auction at Skinner's Auctions. Nine dahlia blocks.
Dated 1845, Baltimore

(25) 1845,  picture from catalog of Hunterdon County quilts by 
Judy Grow, Collection: New Jersey Historical Society

(29) From the Calvert family in Maryland

Blocks have additional florals with the dahlia bouquet

(14) Chintz applique medallion with a stair-step appliqued border. 
Another from an old Quilt Engagement Calendar.

Eight dahlia bouquets arranged around the center.


(15) A a well-worn top in the collection of the DAR
without much history. 

Perhaps made in New Jersey according to the cataloguing information.

(15) Eight blocks with the bouquet in the inner border

Baltimore has more attributions than any place else,
 including three of these signature Baltimore sytle spreads.

(16) Smithsonian's quilt attributed to Achsah Goodwin Wilkins of Baltimore
by her niece who donated it.

(16) The bouquet repeated 8 times in the swags.

(17) From William Rush Dunton's Old Quilts, plate 79,
Owned in the 1940s by Mrs. Adams Coffyn  when Dunton did his research.

Same bouquet inside the swags.

(18) Plate 68 in Dunton's book was attributed to maker "Miss Scott."
Eight bouquets, no swags.

(18) Same border stripe as the Adams Coffyn quilt (17) and the Smithsonian's (16)?
That cactus block in the corner below the dahlia is a mid-1840s print.

So here are 29 quilts, mostly dated in the early 1840s in a wide geographical range from
Philadelphia to Charleston. I had 24 different locations mentioned.

PA 5
NJ 5
VA 3
SC 3
MD 8

I am rather surprised to find the print so often. Images like the cactus are easier to spot than this rather nondescript floral. How many other rather nondescript florals appeared so often?
A lot of questions. Few answers. Yet.

(30) 1846, For Mary Brainerd, Philadelphia Museum of Art

UPDATE: Charlotte sent link to Philadelphia Museum of Art's 1846 quilt by the Presbyterian Church for Mary Brainerd, which has four blocks. Here's the cataloging information, which is probably THE answer:
"The quilt is similar to others made by religious congregations in Philadelphia during the 1840s; many use identical English floral chintz fabrics, which may indicate that precut fabric could be purchased for use as appliqu├ęs."


  1. I learned a new word - ubiquitous, and that dahlia bouquet certainly was that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, that style of applique and the florals used for it were very popular,
    'all the rage', ubiquitous.
    I imagine ladies gathered in sewing bees sharing the thrill of being in the know
    about current techniques and fabrics. Some things don't change.

  3. I am sure you noticed it combined with the calla lily and Mexican shell flower chintz in several instances. Sometimes I think there were thousands of yards of only a few prints available to these quilt makers. Thanks for the great compilation of a "new" famous fabric.