Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Cooper Union Sanitary Commission Quilt #1: Style

Not the most elegant quilt in the world.

But it jumped out at me when I was scrolling through
Stella Rubin's online shop, looking for something else.

Pieced sampler of mid-19th-century cottons with narrow white sashing.
And only half a quilt? Indeed it is 54" wide by 88" long.

Piecing is quite accurate

Just the size for a hospital bed.

Maria Hall on a cold day in a field hospital.

Could this be a quilt made by a Soldier's Aid Society during the Civil War?

I checked my files of quilts thought to have been made specifically for the Sanitary Commission, the Union soldiers' aid society that asked for quilts of inexpensive cottons about 50" wide and 84" long. 

Susannah Pullen made this narrow hospital quilt with her 
Sunday School students. She asked to have it returned if not used up 
after the war and she got it back. It's now in the Smithsonian.

In an American Quilt Study Group paper on quilts made for Union Soldiers Virginia Gunn estimated that 125,000 quilts and comforts were distributed by the Sanitary Commission during the war. But they were used in the dirty business of hospital bedding, washed repeatedly and discarded; any survivors probably sent home in hard times and used up. 

Scholars have found fewer than 20 thought to have been made for the Sanitary Commission in museum and private collections today.

See a post on surviving Sanitary Commission quilts here:

Fussy cut flower, not an inscription

The quilt at Stella's just looks like a Sanitary Commission quilt. I decided to gamble on my instincts and buy it, mainly so I could have the fun of researching it. It arrived in short order.

Several of the survivors have a stamp of some kind, indicating
the source of the supplies.

Jan Dodge found this nine-patch in a thrift store decades ago. 
The stamp on the back, which I recall said "San.Com.", 
meant it had been stitched for a soldier.

 I was hoping there were other inscriptions--- and oh! for a smoking gun as evidence, the Sanitary Commission stamp.

It is in great condition.

I was a little disappointed to find no Sanitary Commission stamp. There was just one rather obscure inscription in embroidery. But I was certainly not disappointed in the quilt, which is pieced of fabrics likely from the 1840-1865 years.

The obscure inscription wasn't obscure to me. I'll tell you why in the next few days.


  1. I think I am getting old (o.k., I know I am!) but I remember when Jan brought that quilt to seminar in San Francisco. I had never seen the stamp before and we were all in awe. I think there are a few potholder quilts out there with the stamp too. Looking forward to the next post!

  2. I think at first nobody knew what it meant but then Ginny gave that paper on the Sanitary Commission. It was a long time ago.

  3. Such a lovely sampler quilt!!

  4. Oooh can't wait for the next installment - this is an exciting find!

  5. Oh now that's almost cruel~ can hardly wait.

  6. Even though it may not have been a sanitary commission quilt, what a great find! Love Sampler quilts!

  7. This quilt should so be a potholder quilt! There is a pink and white one on my Pinterest board that has corners handled just like this one. Cool post, thank you.