Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another Adam & Eve Quilt

Adam & Eve attributed to Mary Worthington Walker, circa 1850.
Collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

I was looking through the digital catalog of the Minnesota Historical Society's quilt collection
and came across this mid-19th-century quilt depicting Adam and Eve and the tale of the Garden of Eden.

Here are Adam and Eve at the gates of Eden,
leaving behind a garden of fruit trees and peacocks.

Read more here:

Adam & Eve by Shauna Christensen, 2001

I knew the pattern well because over 20 years 
ago I drew it for our Sunflower Pattern Co-operative
and we sold quite a few copies. It's out of print now.

(1) Garden of Eden Quilt 86" x 75" Estimated date: 1850-1880
Collection of the National Museum of American History.
 Gift of Dorothy Diffey Beldsoe in memory of Laura Doty Diffy.
Maker unknown, purchased in Fort Smith, Arkansas about 1900.

We based ours on two quilts with Adam and Eve imagery--- the two that we knew of at the time---the Smithsonian's above (1) and the stained version below (2). Mary Worthington Walker's version at the top of the page is the sixth in the digital file .

(2) By Sylvia S. Queen (1804-1896), probably in LaPorte County, Indiana. 
Estimated date 1850-1880.
Collection of the Johnson County (Kansas) Museum
Adam & Eve's story is told in the grape vine border.
Why this quilt is purple I cannot say.

(3) Doyle Auctions sold this version in 2006. It's similar in structure
and imagery to the Smithsonian's.

(4) The Pilgrim/Roy collection once had a quilt quite
similar to the one at the top of the page. Here's a detail
showing an almost identical couple leaving Eden.

(5) Drew Watson posted a detail photo of a quilt
she restored. Eden is represented by butterflies and Broderie-Perse applique.

Mary Worthington Walker, credited as the maker of  quilt #6 in the Minnesota Historical Society's collection, was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts in 1809. She married Samuel Foster in 1832 and they remained in Belchertown until 1846, where Samuel was a merchant. 

Belchertown, Massachusetts, about 1910

In 1846 they began a life in the west, moving first to Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, then in 1848 to Russell, Ohio and to Oswego, Illinois in 1855. In 1861 they located in Williamstown, Illinois, and two years later in Atlanta, Illinois. Mary died in 1897 in Chicago where she lived with a daughter.

One of her seven children, Addison Garner Foster, became a U.S. senator for Washington State in 1899, so the Fosters' lives have been documented rather well. The Minnestota museum caption suggests Mary made the quilt in Belchertown, but this is not the type of quilt one sees in New England. It seems in its applique style to be much more of a Midwestern type. Mary might have seen the pattern in Wisconsin, Ohio or Illinois and stitched it in any one of those states.

Edna Gooder sampler, 1836

The tale of Adam and Eve was common on embroidered samplers in the early 19th century.

Emily Hollaway sampler, 1847

Adam and Eve quilt from the Jim Erickson collection at 
Carol Telfair Antiques in Ontario

This quilt bordered in chintz seems to have much more to do with
the embroidered sampler patterns as if an individual had interpreted
the design in applique.

But it doesn't look as if the quilters in the six quilts shown above independently borrowed the imagery from the embroidery. Rather they passed around some rather distinctive design ideas, particularly the fully clothed woman shown in silhouette...

something we also see in Harriet Powers's Bible Quilts,
this one in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Powers lived in Georgia and made two pictorial quilts in
the 1880s and '90s,

See a previous post about the 19th-century pattern that was somehow handed around from quilter to quilter:

Karen Kluba of Rosewood Manor has done an embroidered
sampler pattern based on a quilt,
perhaps #5, the one that Drew Watson posted details of.

And on that preposition I will end this post.


  1. Love quilts from bible stories and these are beautiful. Also love how they used the prints in the pieces, but I cannot imagine doing that much appliqué.


  2. Really enjoyed your photos have a passion myself for antique quilts. Love appliqué too thanks Barbara. Joy

  3. Those Eves in dresses are interesting. I wonder if the purple quilt was dye that bled from the grapes.