Thursday, February 16, 2012

Keckley Quilt on Display

You have the rare chance to see this quilt made by Elizabeth Keckley, which is on display at
Kent State University Museum until August 26, 2012.

The exhibit “On the Home Front: Civil War Fashions and Domestic Life” focuses on clothing from the Civil War.

The quilt is said to be made of the scraps from Mary Todd Lincoln's many lavish dresses. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was a fashionable Washington dressmaker who became close to the First Lady during the Civil War. The quilt, made about 1870, has a central panel with an embroidered eagle and the word Liberty in metallic thread, a word made more significant when one realizes that Elizabeth Keckley was born a slave. The thread has tarnished. The quilt is fragile so it is not often on exhibit.

Mary Todd Lincoln in 1861

Read an interview with the curator Sara Hume and collections manager Joanne Fenn online here:

Elizabeth Keckley, the frontispiece from her book
Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House
" 'It’s actually a really amazing quilt,' Hume said. 'The idea of it is terribly compelling, but when you look at it, the object itself is also in its own right. Even if it didn’t have that provenance and if that weren’t the story of the quilt, it would still be one of the most remarkable quilts we have.'
The Kent State University Museum received the quilt as a gift in 1994, which was also the last year it was on display at the museum as part of a quilt exhibit.
Since then, numerous museums have requested to borrow the quilt. About four years ago, the museum loaned it to the Decatur House Museum in Washington, D.C.
'We’ve had requests for the quilt and we’ve had to deny requests,' said Joanne Fenn, collections manager and museum registrar. 'When an item goes on loan, it is most vulnerable, and because it is so important and in such fragile condition, we have to be very careful who we give it to.' "
Read Susan Wildemuth's article from Quilter's World about the quilt:

And see more about the museum here:
Read Elizabeth Keckley's book
Behind the scenes; or, Thirty years a slave, and four years in the White house by clicking here:


KathiP said...

It's beautiful - do you think they will ever loan to the Lincoln Presidential Museum? I would make the trip to go there! (and I love see the quilt you made on the bed in the log cabin!)

Deborah said...

Oh my goodness. What a truly wonderful surprise to see this on your blog this morning. I have a long time interest in Mary Todd Lincoln and was enthralled with Elizabeth Keckley's book. Thanks so much for sharing this. Deb

Jan said...

I am right up the street from Kent State and have been meaning to get over to see this exhibit. Thanks for the reminder. Can't wait to see this quilt in person!

1812 Quilt said...

Was honestly just reading about this truly remarkable woman in US News!


threadlady said...

I checked on Amazon and was surprised to find that that book "Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House" is available for FREE as a Kindle download.


Barbara Brackman said...

I'd read it. It's the source of a lot of intimate details of the Mary/Abe Lincoln relationship. And Elizabeth Keckley's story is very powerful.