Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Whig Rose or Democrat Rose?

Traditional Whig Rose design

Most quilt fans know more about the long-gone Whig party than the average 21st-century American, mainly because the name Whig has persisted in the names for several patterns.

Variations from my Encyclopedia of Applique,
numbered in the 14's, pg 81. These have 8 identical motifs
around a central shape. The earliest printed pattern name
I found was from the Household magazine about 1912, actually 1911

 Whig Rose from the collection of Fort Walla Walla
These are often pieced although they look appliqued.

Read more about constructing a Whig Rose here. Is it pieced or appliqued?

Here is some explanation of the difference between a Whig Rose and a Democrat Rose from a catalog I wrote for the Spencer Museum of Art: Flora Botanica.
"The floral image circled by smaller motifs is often called Whig Rose. In 1911, a magazine writer claimed, 'The Whig Rose and the Democrat Rose were planned for political quilts. They came into existence during the Harrison-Tyler campaign [of 1840].'
Whig Henry Clay doing some "plain sewing" on
 Democrat Andrew Jackson,
stitching his mouth closed
"The name Whig comes to us from England. Although today we hear a ring of pomposity, Whigs [like Henry Clay] viewed themselves as populists supporting a strong Congress in the face of autocratic Presidents, particularly Democrat Andrew Jackson.

"How does a Whig Rose differ from a Democrat Rose? Today's quilt writers apply the names interchangeably to nineteenth-century rose patterns, but quilt historian Florence Peto, writing in the 1940s, discussed the differences. A Democrat Rose had cockscombs around the central flower. She speculated that the comb shape represented the Democratic rooster. 

Democrat James K. Polk beat Whig 
Henry Clay in the 1844 election.
We're familiar with the Democratic donkey, but the rooster was the party's symbol in the mid-nineteenth century. A Whig Rose then would be a rose without the combs.

Baltimore Album quilt with a raccoon and perhaps an opossum or a fox
on a log cabin. Katcher Collection.

 One occasionally comes across a quilt with the Whig's animal symbol---a raccoon.

"Whig & True"
A wall quilt I made for a modern-day Whig a few years ago.
I appliqued several symbols I'd seen in quilts from the 1840s
& '50s including a raccoon.

Read more about animal symbolism in mid-19th-century politics in this article:

Carrie Hall indexed pattern #3 (top right) as Whig Rose or Democrat Rose.

Like their standard bearer Henry Clay, the Whigs maintain more quilt-related memories than the Democrats, the Republicans, the Federalists or the Progressives. Did the people who made all those mid-19th-century versions call them by their political name? I've found no written records to Whig Roses or Democrat Roses. And here are two Democrat Roses called by different names.

We know Charlotte Raynor called the design the Rose of Sharon. She
appliqued the name on 
in this quilt in the collection of the Shelburne Museum.

And Sarah Gear called hers Odd Fellows Rose.
The Arizona Project found this exceptional quilt.
Sarah must have been a fan of the Odd Felllows. Note the triple link chain
and their motto F.L.T. (Friendship, Love,Truth)


  1. Perhaps that is Van Buren's fox on the roof of the cabin with Clay's racoon. Possum has a rat tail.

  2. I didn't think about Van Buren's symbol as a fox.

  3. And probably 54-40 or fight and Burgoyne Surrounded, as well. Our ancestors, still helping us with history. =)

  4. I am a beginner quilter. I just purchased your book Civil War Sampler.
    I know most are four patch but how much fabric is needed and I do not see piecing instructions. is there a site to find this information.

    Your help would be appreciated.