Friday, March 2, 2018

Eagles Quilts #2: Quarrelsome Eagles

Quilt for Robert McDonald, 1855
Old Hope Antiques

As I noted yesterday I've been sorting my pictures of date-inscribed quilts and have made it through the 1850s. People made a lot of quilts in that decade. Yesterday I showed several eagle medallions.

I've also been struck with how popular this particular eagle block was.

Alice Payne's quilt dated 1856
from Barb Vedder's collection.

This is the earliest dated example I have in the picture file:
 1851, initials SJS.

Many of today's eagles are from sampler quilts.

 A watercolor done by W.P.A. artist Charlotte Angus
in the late 1930s. Would be fun to come across this one with four eagles.

1860 dated sampler
From an online auction

What the birds have in common is:
  • They are spread eagles.
  • They have a federal shield on their chests.
  • They carry a banner on a string.
  • Wings are two parts; tails 2 or 3.
  • They often have two stars or circles above them (and sometimes below).
  • They carry the usual US symbols in their talons---the olive branch of peace and the arrows of war.

1898 for Peter Shank
"Remember the Giver"
A later version

Except they sometimes are quite belligerent, omitting any peaceful discussion. No olive branches here. The symbolism indicates a strong political position but the meaning seems to be lost.

The Shelburne Museum has a repeat block
of the same warrior eagle by Lydia Stafford.

Stafford's quilt was stylized for the cover of 
The Magazine Antiques in July, 1933.

And the Aunt Martha pattern company put a more stylized version on the cover of their 1933 catalog,
which included some quilts from the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago.

The Sunnyside Album quilt, dated 1898
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum

The pattern was popular in the 1850s and had
a revival in the late 19th century in Ohio's Miami River Valley.

Sue C. Cummings wrote a book about these later sampler quilts.
 (It's still in print!)

I recently noticed that IQSC has quite a collection of
the belligerant eagles. This one from the Ditmer Family in Ohio seems
to be from the mid-19th century. 
IQSC # 2016.014.0022_1200

Nothing in the banner and no olive branches.

I have stitched this particular eagle several times. 
He was in my Bicentennial Quilt in 1976.
I have to find that and photograph it.

Jean Stanclift made a reproduction quilt for my
book Civil War Women. It's 100 inches square.

And so did Janet Finley. This one's 58" square. 
 We used the Shelburne's peaceful little bird border.

Patti Poe combined the eagle with our War & Pieces border.

The full-sized pattern for the Four-Block quilt is in Civil War Women.
 You can buy the book from C&T Publishing
as a Print-on-Demand book or an eBook.

I've also digitized the pattern for the 36" eagle block and the bird and swag border.
You can buy it in my Etsy shop.

As a paper pattern through the mail:

Or as a PDF to print yourself

Read more about the eagle here:

Next post: Why so many eagles in the 1850s? More thought on 1850s politics this week.


  1. Thanks for your informative post. I've read Sue C. Cummings' book and thought it was nicely done, I learned a lot.

  2. I'm a huge fan of eagle quilts so I am enjoying these posts!