Sunday, July 4, 2010

Eagles and Eccentricities

Reunion Eagle by Barbara Brackman (reproduction)

For the past few years I've been using the internet to collect pictures of quilt patterns. I see the worldwide web as an enormous quilt documentation day where people post quilts to sell them, show them off and ask questions. I find it a great way to study patterns.

Antique quilt from an online auction

One of my favorite photo collections is eagle quilts and the variations.

The consensus among quilt historians now is that these Four-Block Eagles date to around the time of the 1876 Centennial celebration of American Independence, which happened 234 years ago today. Our 100th birthday party was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Reunion Eagle by Nancy Hornback (reproduction)

Nancy's reproduced a classic version with several characteristics found over and over in this pattern.

*Four eagles with spread wings and a shield on the chest
*The eagles have nothing in their talons but something (vegetation?, laurel leaves) in their beaks
*A central medallion

The pattern was quite popular in Pennsylvania between 1875 and 1930, probably influenced by the Centennial Exposition and the imagery there.

We've never found an actual pattern published or hand cut for the four-block eagle quilts but many quilts were made. The thing I love is the variety. Within the design conventions quilters found room for a lot of eccentricity.

Antique top from an online auction
Some quilters added details. This one turned the medallion into a Princess Feather.

But many subtracted details.

I am the proud owner of this top in which the central medallion has been reduced to a doughnut. It looks to be early 20th century.

Antique top, early 20th century


To be fair to the original quiltmaker here, the fabric in the tail has faded to white.
Imagine a tail between those little feet that are floating around. And there must have been more to the wings.
The eagles looked less anorexic when the quilt was new.

Quilt historian Susan Wildemuth has put her collection of eagle photos on a disc so you can enjoy the eccentricities too.


Find information about buying Susan's disc
Eagle Quilts: Antique, Vintage, and New Quilt History Study CD
by clicking here:


  1. I love eagle quilts, too. That last one is a little creepy, though... :)

  2. I'm always amazed at the beauties you come up with! Thanks, Barbara :)

  3. Eagle quilts are among my favorites for sure. Thank you for sharing these quilts.

  4. I do love eagle quilts and the variations among them.
    I really like the fabrics you used in your version.


  5. Antique eagle quilts are my favorite.

  6. My DH would love one in this theme! May have to try my hand at one my way.
    Love looking at all the unique quilts you find to share!