Monday, March 2, 2020

Quilts Dated 1891

For many years I've been saving photos of quilts with the date actually on them. I figured you could analyze style trends in a sort of timeline. I've spent a lot of time analyzing the years before 1860 but I thought I'd look at an era I haven't paid much attention to: The end of the 19th century. We can begin with 1891.

Crazy quilt dated 1891

The files would be full of crazy quilts if I saved pictures of crazy quilts (I think we have seen a large enough sample to say they were popular in 1891).

Detail of a crazy quilt in the collection of McMinn County Living Heritage Museum

Silk quilt dated 1891 from the Michigan Project & the Quilt Index,
in the collection of the Dearborn Historical Society.

I am more interested in cotton patchwork, even though silk quilts and crazies were quite a fad at the time.

A related vogue was redwork, outline embroidery,
this one from the Indiana project and a Methodist Church in Dayton, Indiana.
Fundraisers and all sorts of name quilts were quite fashionable.

What do we see when looking at the cotton patchwork?

Irish Chains were being made, in fact they must have been
a desirable design. I have 25
photos of cotton quilts dated 1891and three are Irish Chains, one
Double above, two Triple below.

"E.H.K." Note ice cream cone border Hmmm.

Mary Rausch from a Case Antiques auction in Tennesssee

And here's a fourth, a Single Irish Chain or
just a Nine Patch

For Ann Phillips from the Ladies of Mt. Morris (New Jersey)
Mt Morris Historical Museum

A newer idea was the Drunkard's Path

Two red and white examples from online auctions.

M.A.J. might have been in her 70s but she was
in the avant garde.

It's not surprising how many red and white quilts are dated 1891.
We've all noticed that end-of-the-century fashion.

Combination piecing and red work embroidery 1890-1891

Some solid fabrics;
Some prints.

Garfield's Monument, another novel design, reflecting the surge
of commercial patterns about that time.

Garfield's Monument from Farm & Home.
Several versions of this mourning image were published.

Debra Wright Stansbury's Collection

About 1/3 of the quilts in the file are red and white.

An unusual log cabin kind of pattern from the collection
of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Names on the logs.

The red and white quilts point out the simplicity of design.
One one hand everyone was making elaborate crazy quilts;
on the other pieced designs were far more austere.

Solid colors....
The more I see of these blue and brown quilts the more
I wonder if the brown was once a dark blue.

"1891 Pa & Ma to Mell"

Prints may have been hard to find or relatively expensive.

"D H Mack"
And the prints one does see tend to be simple too.

Stella Rubin's Inventory
The national colors of red, white and blue were discussed in the newspapers for fundraisers and commemoratives.

Prints in the new wave of synthetic dyes that characterize the 1890s and early 20th century

By Rebecca Alford Dinsmore
Lawrence County, Pennsylvania
International Quilt Museum

Only one pieced album, from the Aycock family in Abilene, Texas.

Another album dated 1891; this pictorial sampler from Stella Rubin's inventory.

Including some temperance sentiment and a pair
of Drunkard's Path blocks.

Pook & Pook Auction
A second sampler, this one mostly applique and mostly simple.

M McKee (?)

Few repeat block applique quilts. This four-block of all solids:
Turkey red, blue that has remained blue and chrome orange.


Really unusual

Was the tan background once green?

And one last unusual example

Nancy Rutherford Fisher's string quilt in the collection of the Smithsonian. One could
understand how this (and several of the other unusual quilts) might have taken years. Nancy presented this to her daughter in 1891. The abundance of prints indicate it may have been made over a range of years.

Detail from the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum crazy quilt

What was happening in the year 1891? Not too much. There are not a lot of pieced or appliqued quilts dated that year--- the crazy quilt and silk quilt fashion may have made them old-fashioned. But those cotton quilts that were made don't look too old-fashioned. In fact, they look kind of modern in their simplicity.
Solid colors and 
Red & White!

Drunkard's Paths!

Where are the prints?


  1. Fascinating travel back through time. I am taking copious notes! After I'm done blog reading I have three new book purchases to delve into. Can't wait! Barbara, I have asked around a little bit but haven't yet found anybody who really knows. Do you know about what time period fabric companies started printing words on their selvages? And did it kind of evolve from just having the makers name to including the designers names? Inquiring minds want to know! If you have written a post about this before, could you point me to it? I am going to have a lot of fun reading through your archives!

  2. What a great post - thank you! Nothing beats a nine patch... but that unusual folky house quilt is WOW.

  3. Love that 9-patch with the different colors! Someday I'll be making my own.

  4. wow, beautiful bags embroidery! Thank you so much for this Fab tutorial - I'll give them a try - your work is so beautiful. YOu are inspiring me a lot - thank you again.

  5. Love that 9-patch with the different colors! Someday I'll be making my own.

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