Thursday, June 16, 2016

A New York Quilt Project 100 Years Ago

"All Saints"
Watercolor of an antique quilt by
Virginia Beauchamp,
Onondaga County Public Library

Between 1919 and 1923 New Yorker Virginia Beauchamp recorded quilt patterns she found in local families. She painted watercolors of the designs with a little information about the antique quilt. Below she recorded the blocks and the border with an inscription apparently on the quilt.

"The Forbidden Fruit. Mrs. K. M. H.
Mrs. Ireland's quilt."

This looks like a picture of the words appliqued to the quilt.
Pattern names on the quilt are quite rare.

There are 419 watercolors in the Beauchamp collection at the Onondaga County Public Library. 
Read about the collection:

And see the watercolors here:

"Poppy Pattern"
From Mrs. Bench

Not all have a pattern names.
But some that do are a little surprising.

"Tray and Snuffles"

"Tree of Heaven"
She apparently recorded this at the 1919 New York State Fair.

"Ladies' Wreath"

Beauchamp recorded several rectangular patterns she
called Postal, meaning the patches were shaped like a post card.

Virginia Beauchamp (1858-1923) was born in Skaneateles, New York, to William and Sarah Carter Beauchamp. In 1865 the family moved to Baldwinsville in Ononadaga County where Rev. Beauchamp was minister at Grace Episcopal Church for 35 years. He was also a folklorist and archaeologist, considered a "great early authority on the culture, history, and institutions of the Iroquois."

Baldwinsville, New York in 1880

Virginia was the eldest of four children. She received two degrees from the University of Michigan in 1889 and 1894 and taught languages in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for twenty years. 

"From Mrs. Brewster"
A classic New York pattern. Unfortunately it's unnamed on the watercolor.

At retirement Virginia returned to her parents' home in Syracuse, New York. 

Sketch of an island in Skaneateles Lake in 1852 by 
William Beauchamp

Her father continued his pursuit of local history and folklore. He kept notebooks, for example,  "Antiquities of Onondaga" with 15,000 drawings of Indian relics.

Virginia began a folklore project of her own in 1919, painting pictures of antique quilts in the area. She apparently copied quilt patterns from women in the area, recording designs from Cayuga, Onondaga, Oswego, Nassau and Wayne County New York plus Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

Based on her paintings the quilts look to date between 1840 and 1920. In most she recorded the owner's last name ("From Mrs. Brewster") and occasionally a name for the pattern.

From Mrs. Winchell

She died at about 65 in 1923. In 1945 her younger sister Grace Beauchamp Lodder donated the 419 paintings to the Onondaga County Public Library. They have recently been scanned and all are online.

A sampler from Mrs. Daveys

Mrs. Munson's quilt

I post this because I'm crazy about quilt patterns. Like the Beauchamps I just like to collect the information.  I've started a new blog just for patterns. It's called A Cloud of Quilt Patterns and my theory is that I post my files up on the digital cloud and the information will trickle down.

See it here:


  1. This is remarkable! Thank you for sharing the story and pictures. What beautiful patterns!

  2. I love the stories and history you share. What a great idea to document quilt patterns with water color.