Thursday, January 18, 2018

Washington On Horseback

Boston Museum Fine Arts
1853, F. Schufeld

How many identical quilts survive featuring Washington on horseback?
The one above was sold at Skinner's Auction and is now
in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Quilt by C.[hristina] C Shufelt, Hillsdale, 
Columbia Co. NY, 1853

This one was featured in the New York project's book
New York Beauties.

They are the same quilt, I think, based on comparing these two blocks.

The caption in the New York book says it is a "duplicate of one that was made in 1849 by Eliza Conklin of Claverack, also in Columbia County"...in Orlofsky's Quilts in America [page 232] and Peto's American Quilts & Coverlets [page 38]Both books show the same black & white detail photo.

Orlofsky caption:
" 'General Washington Saluting Miss Liberty' Appliqued
and embroidered, 1849, Eliza Conklin, Claverack, New York. (Private collection.)"

1853 quilt on left; 1849 quilt on right.
Not the same quilt. 

Here's what Peto says on page 30:
"The Conklins were early settlers in Claverack, New York, and when Eliza made her spread in 1849 the political skies were darkening with approaching threat of disunion. Four applique and embroidery units depict General Washington on horseback saluting a grim Miss Liberty who holds a staff on which is mounted the Liberty Cap; under a constellation of thirteen stars the fiercely protective Eagle spreads his wings. Applied calico tulips and roses with foliated vine, in tones of red, pink, yellow and green spill in profusion over 'field' and border. Eliza was an ambitious needlewoman and a skilled one. Date and signature in India ink are enclosed in leafy lozenge."
Peto's hindsight exaggerated the threat of disunion in 1849, seeing a grim Miss Liberty. Rather than antebellum politics, the inspiration for this image might have been two popular lithographs published by Nathan Currier.

Washington's Reception by the Ladies of Trenton,
recalling the new President's triumphal ride to his inauguration in 1789,
was published in 1845.

A similar image of Washington on Prescott, his high-stepping horse,
is attributed to 1850.

General George Washington, ca. 1850.

1833 print: Washington Crossing the Delaware
by Humphrey Phelps (Crossing the Delaware on a horse???)

These popular prints inspired many folk artists.

1841 Sampler from Amy Finkel (detail)
"Caroline Hite's Work"
after the Phelps print.

From a mid-19th century appliqued sampler made for
Maria Mowerson Pullis, probably Bergen County.
 New Jersey Project & the Quilt Index.

The Winterthur Museum has a disassembled quilt date-inscribed 1853 
with this image of "General Washington". The maker
used the same silhouette to portray other presidents.

"T. Jefferson"

The Philadelphia Museum of Art owns this 1853
pictorial sampler made for Samuel Mosher of Stanford, New York.

Four blocks contain equestrians. The horseman in the 
green wreath may have been drawn from the Currier lithograph.
Stanford is in Dutchess County, south of Columbia County, NY

Two more leads to follow:
Three of the four quilts in this post were dated 1853, the year when Franklin Pierce was inaugurated as President after defeating Winfield Scott. What else was going on politically in 1853?

This Washington quilt is not the only surviving quilt signed by Eliza Conklin of Claverack.

"Eliza Conklin Claverac[k] June the 14 1841"

Read more about her appliqued oak leaf with a border of squirrels and peacocks here:

Inspired by the Winterthur fragments Karla Menaugh and I made a wool version of George Washington and Prescott for a pattern for our Sunflower Pattern Co-op.

The wool applique panel is 12-1/2" x 37-1/2"

See our Etsy store for a paper copy of the Daughter of the Revolution pattern:
Or a digital copy of the General Washington panel pattern that you can print yourself:


  1. Another fascinating post. I too thought the title of the 1833 Humphrey Phelps print was misleading. By the look on his mount's eyes I would say he had no intention of carrying his President across the river! As is often the case with your wonderful posts, I felt compelled to see what I could find out about "Prescott". In the print he is clearly portrayed as "gray" with dark legs, but the few references I was able to find stated that he was white. In fact, one article stated that Washington preferred white horses over a dapple (gray). I find this interesting as true white (lack of skin pigment) horses often have skin and other health related problems as opposed to gray (dark pigmented skin) horses who are born dark and turn gray and eventually white with age. Wait a minute, wasn't this post about quilts? Sorry!

  2. Wendy-You must be one of those horse girls. I wondered about Prescott myself but he's a horse---they never meant much to me. If he'd been Washington's dog it would have been another story.
    And what about Washington's dog. Did he have a pet? Wait a minute.

  3. George Washington was both a horse person and a dog person. He enjoyed fox hunting, and helped create the American Foxhound breed.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Of course, the NJ GW block is in one of my favorite quilts. Wonderful to see it again :) Thanks!