Saturday, February 17, 2018

Hollyhocks & Cut-out Chintz

The Georgia Quilt Project documented this tree-of-life chintz quilt dated 1824 as one
of the earliest Georgia quilts they saw. It's by Mary Elizabeth Clayton Miller Taylor and in the collection of Savannah's Telfair Museum.

"William Taylor. From his Grandmother. 1824"

Read more about it in Georgia Quilts. See a book preview here:


The leafy fabric at the base of the tree caught my eye. Geranium leaves?
Or Hollyhocks?

Hollyhock and leaves.

Looks like hollyhocks.

Mary Taylor was not the only woman to see potential in that hollyhock chintz. Another Miller, Sarah Miller of Charleston, South Carolina made a similar quilt.

Sarah's quilt was pictured in Florence Peto's 1949 book Quilts & Coverlets.
Peto, a quilt collector and dealer, sold Sarah's quilt to the Shelburne Museum.

"Sarah F.C.H. Miller
Some read this signature as Sarah T.C. Miller,
but I think Peto's guess of F.C.H. is correct.

Here is the hollyhock leaf base for another cut-out chintz quilt---a tree of roses in
 the collection of Drake House Museum in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Plainfield is about 30 miles from New York City.

The  rose tree is said to have been made by a daughter of John Hart, a New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence.

I don't see any hollyhock blooms or buds in this quilt but the
leaves resting on a dark ground are similar.

Hart and wife Deborah Scudder had at least 7 daughters among their 13 children: Sara, Jesse, Martha, Susannah, Mary, Abigail, Debra.

We know even less about another example in the collection
of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.

But we have a great online view of the leafy base of the "tree"
and get a glimpse of what the original chintz must have looked like.

The quilt was donated in 1991 by Mrs. Robert B. Stephens. Somewhere I've seen that it was found in Massachusetts. 

Trolling for hollyhock fabrics I came across this 1833
tree chintz quilt from the Charleston Museum.

Margaret Seyle Burges (1804-1877)
#2010.37.1 Charleston Museum
She used a different base but the hollyhocks are on the branches.
The quilt is inscribed "Burges/Dec 1833" on the reverse.

Quilt by Mary Eldred Mumford  (?-1874)
Newport, Rhode Island
Detroit Historical Museum

This one is hard to see in the Quilt Index photo. There's a better photo in Phyllis Haders's Warner Collector's Guide to American Quilts showing a few hollyhocks growing out of a base of leaves.
Here we have six cut-out chintz quilts related by the hollyhock fabric and general tree-of-life style with three dated examples: 1824, 1830 and 1833.

That information would help us date the hollyhock fabric if I knew what it looked like. For all the quilts with the fabric I cannot find a picture of the yardage or a whole cloth quilt.

The fabric is undoubtedly imported and quite likely to have been English. The quilts' locations reflect access to imported prints in port cities from Newport and Plainfield to Charleston and Savannah, but how did Mary Mumford in Rhode Island and Mary Taylor in Georgia come to use the fabric in such similar fashion? 

Could they have known each other?  If the women were of the same age I'd guess they attended a boarding school together, but Mary Taylor was a generation or two older than Mary Mumford and Margaret Burges.

Many mysteries, but I am keeping my eye out for the hollyhock chintz.


  1. Barbara,The Victoria and Albert Museum has a hollyhock print (Circ.313-1956) from about the same time period (made 1830), though not the same print. I hope you find the original - I bet it is stunning!

  2. In my previous post I should have said "The Victoria and Albert Museum has a hollyhock printed furnishing fabric (chintz)" etc. Sorry!

  3. I will use this hyperlink to see this book preview. Can I get a copy of it?