The Charleston Museum owns this red and green tulip quilt dated 1861.
Could it be that old? No reason to doubt it. The Turkey red (deteriorating in the way Turkey red will) and the yellow-green indicating an overdyed green cotton are quite typical of mid-century applique quilts.
New York Sampler
The idea of featuring a single floral is part of the applique tradition, found wherever mid-19th-century Americans made quilts.
Dated 1868 from Stella Rubin's inventory
Ann Sharp of Evesham in Burlington County, New Jersey
signed her quilt in 1850.
Matilda Ingram's South Carolina quilt is dated 1895 on a label.
Same pattern, same overdyed green in the sashing but the tan indicates
the unreliable synthetic dyes after 1880.
We can definitely trace the idea of the single tulip back into the beginnings of American applique in the 1840s.
From Pook & Pook Auctions in Pennsylvania
Southerners were not the only group of quilters who continued the pattern into the 20th century. This tulip with a blue background is typical of southeastern Pennsylvania taste from about 1880-1920.
Detail of a sampler from the Herrs inventory in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
No source, online auction years ago.
There's something about this that looks far more southern Pennsylvania
than Southern U.S. The emphasis on primary colors? Blocks on point?
Similar style to one collected in Pennsylvania by
Jonathan Holstein and Gail Van Der Hoof at
the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Pennsylvanians were more likely to use printed
calicoes than Carolinians who favored solids.
Tomorrow: The Influence of Commercial Patterns