Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Quilts Dated 1840


Collection of the DAR Museum
The initials stand for 
John L Benson & Temperance A Benson

Some random thoughts on quilts with that date, a year when quilt style
was changing.

Temperance Ann Money Benson (1816-1885)

Twenty years later the 1860 census shows them farming in Kent
County with two children, Ellen 18 and Alphonsom 16 plus two
free young Black men, residents working on the farm. 

Temperance's quilt gives us a glimpse of affluence in its fabrics
and record of leisure time.

See more here:

We like round numbers on our dating estimates so many quilts are dated 1840-1860 when specific styles of fabrics, patterns and techniques were popular. Looking at the first year of those style trends I was surprised to find how few quilts in the files are actually dated 1840.

I've got 15, compared say to the year 1844 when I have files on over 40. Temperance Benson's quilt, which may have taken her years, is not a novel style as several hexagon mosaics are dated in the first quarter of the 19th century.

Quilt sold at Copake Auctions in New York
I wish I had more pictures of this quilt which has the
cross-stitch date on the reverse.  Another old-fashioned look.

Cross stitch on the backing " #2"

One has to be suspicious when one sees this style of inscription, particularly when a "no 2" is included. It's likely that H B M used an old and durable linen sheet for her backing fabric. The date is on the bedsheet not the quilt. Good housekeepers identified their bedding in this fashion for the community laundry. 
Museum at Michigan State University

Another classic style: Small Nine Patches, the kind of needlework that girls might do in their stint of patchwork. The tag says Palmer, 1840 and again one is suspicious about tags, which might be added later.

New England Quilt Museum
Quilt for Thomas Miller Skiles 1840

Now this is what we want to see. A dedication block
on the front of the quilt with a date.
Too bad the maker didn't put her own name on it.

Strip quilt from an online auction, reported to be dated 1840.

Striped furniture prints were quite the interior decorating
style at this time and strip quilts seem to have been related.

New fashions were on the horizon---a rage for Turkey red prints.

No doubt this ode to Turkey red is dated 1840.

Collection of the Museum at Michigan State University

1840 seems a little early for so much imported, printed Turkey red
but here's another from the Delaware Historical Society

Looks like the initials and date are corded in the quilting.

Below: And another pieced of a single Turkey red print and white in a feathered star pattern. Quite the up-to-date look made by a woman in her eighties.

Dated on the reverse in ink
From A Maryland Album by Gloria Allen & Nancy Gibson

"This quilt was pieced in the year 1840 by Mrs. Mary Kemp in her
eightysecond year for her great grand daughter Mary Jane Elizabeth Doub
when she was eight years old."
Mary Laman Kemp (1758-1845) may have inked the dedication herself or
overseen its progress.

 Mary Jane Doub McCleery's tombstone
verifies that she was indeed 8 years old in 1840.
So it would seem that the craze was off to a strong start in 1840.
We also see Turkey red prints in a few red and green quilts, fashion aligned with the fashion for red.

Dated 1840, Agnes Douglas Knox (1816-1852)
Belmont County, Ohio
The classic star turned into a floral.

Collection, International Quilt Museum

And two simpler versions telling us this soon-to-be very popular design was
in the air.

Quilt inscribed in the quilting:
"Lucy Faris, September 11, 1840"

Friendship quilt dated 1840 from Pat Nickols collection
at the Mingei Museum in San Diego. Made in Chester
County, Pennsylvania by Quakers with links to the New Garden Meeting.

Two blocks, a star turned into a floral
and a nine-patch, all with names

If this quilt is indeed dated 1840 it is one of the earliest
Quaker Friendship quilts. Things were definitely happening
in 1840.

See a post on related applique here:

The New Garden Meeting quilt is an early friendship quilt as well as an early red and green. The fashion for gift blocks with names of friends and relatives would explode in the mid 1840s. There are a few blocks in quilts dated 1839 and some quilts that are from that year. Below some 1840 examples.

J.C. Wilson 1840 in the pink center dedication square and
North Grosvenordale, Connecticut up by the Massachusetts state line.

The classic friendship quilt in a favorite New England pattern

The New Jersey project recorded this quilt associated with
Tuckerton, Ocean County in another soon-to-be popular design. 
The chintz-scale border is a link to the past while the blocks are full of Prussian
blue stripes, a novel fabric favored by quiltmakers after 1840.

The quilt associated with Ann Barbara Deems Sheppard (1821-1849)
of Kent County, Maryland is set on the square with similar white sashing
  but it's a sampler of pieced blocks.

The inscription on the back implies it was a wedding quilt for the 19-year-old.
"Ann Barbara Deems 
Mrs. Thomas Sheppard
married Oct. 8th 1840"

See this Baltimore quilt recorded by the Kent County project here:

Lone framed block with the name Rosina A Machette, May 29th 1840

Rosina Adelaide Machette was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1812 and died in Philadelphia in 1896. Her cut-out-chintz block was probably meant for a friendship quilt in Delaware Valley chintz style.

This Baltimore Album style quilt in the collection
of the Mariners' Museum Park has a date of 1840 with
an inked poem in the block below.

The Museum tells us it was presented to Joshua Young in 1840 in appreciation of his efforts to establish a Seaman’s Bethel (chapel) in Centerville, Maryland.

Portrait of sailor Peter Jason holding a paper inked "Sign the Pledge" 
surrounded by the poem praising Joshua Young.
"I’ll bless the day
That we first met
Yet never thee I will forget.
Peter Jason
Baltimore, Maryland
If 1840 was indeed the year the quilt was made and given to Young it would be the earliest album in  Baltimore style. Again, the date may mean something else, perhaps when Jason met Young. The quilt is an outlier and I'm inclined to think it was made within the twenty year fashion for these distinctive quilts: 1842-1862. See a post from the Museum here:

Armilda W. Campbell Nichols (1813-1908)
Monroe County History Center, Indiana
Recorded by the Indiana Project and the Quilt Index

Armilda was born in Kentucky according to the 1870 census and
married Lowden Campbell on December 30, 1841 in Indiana.
Did she make this before her marriage? She lived a long life
and the date 1840 may have signified something else.
But then again star quilts were popular---wish we could see the fabrics.


  1. I like the star-turned-flower effect. I've seen Carolina Lily look something similar, but this is striking.

  2. The Thomas Smiles quilt was recently on exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum and we had an opportunity to examine it closely. The brown fabric used for the alternate blocks shows evidence of being repurposed from an earlier use, so it is older than the 1840 date on the quilt.