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Applique Quilt

Probably made by the Sewing Society of the First Baptist Church, Philadelphia

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Cotton with block and roller-printed chintz applique; plait, feather, feather circle, intersecting diagonal and variously patterned quilting; drawings, inscriptions and signatures in ink

8 feet 1 inches × 8 feet 10 inches (246.4 × 269.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Sterett Ridgely Prevost, 1982

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This quilt was either commissioned by or given to the Wattson family to unite the extended family and friends, both living and dead, of Thomas Wattson, one of Philadelphia's leading merchants. The appliqué chintz wreaths with verses memorialize or honor several of the founding families of the First Baptist Church, whose sewing society made the quilt.

Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu� Quilts

    The sewing societies that flourished throughout the mid- to late nineteenth century were, together with the Sunday schools, the centers for women's work in the church. The Evangelical Sewing Society of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, later known as the Dorcas Society, was one such organization, founded on September 10, 1839, to "assist pious young men in the preparation for the gospel ministry, by furnishing them with clothing, &c., and also to promote social and religious intercourse among the members of the church and congregation."1 With fundraising for church causes also a primary concern of these groups, the construction of quilts from purchased squares, signed by their sponsors, was common. The Sewing Society most likely made the album quilt illustrated here, which was either commissioned by or given to the Wattsson family to unite the extended family and friends, both living and dead, of Thomas Wattson, who at the time owned a cracker factory in Philadelphia. He was later one of the city's leading shipping and commission merchants as well as a major contributor to Bucknell University. This quilt was handed down in the family from mother to daughter until 1982, when it was given to the Museum by a descendant of the original owner.

    All but two of the main center squares contain a large appliqué chintz wreath and verses in memory or honor of several of the founding families of the First Baptist Church--the Wattsons, Browns, Ricketts, Hansells, Shewells, Butchers, and Merrills--who were interrelated by marriage. The smaller appliqué squares along three sides of the quilt are signed by other church members, including several from the Sewing Society. Most squares are dated and span the years 1846 to 1850. The particular event that prompted the making of the quilt is unknown, but it may have been produced to raise money, possibly for the church's missionary society or for its sunday school, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1849.

    Although whether the Sewing Society of the First Baptist Church was directly responsible for creating the Wattson quilt has not been documented, the society is known to have made other album quilts during this period. Traditionally, quilts were presented to each missionary who visited the congregation. The minutes of the church's Female Missionary Society do record that an album quilt (present location unknown) was made by the Sewing Society in 1846 and presented to Sister Deborah Wade of the Karen Mission in Burma. Ann Rhees, first director of the missionary society and founder of the sunday school, wrote to Sister Wade on May 17, 1846:

    "permit me in behalf of the Sisters of the Sewing Society, to present for your acceptance, an Album bedquilt.--Inscribed on it you will find, when you have leisure to examine it many precious promises from the word of life, and sentiments warm from Christian hearts. Receive it, as it is intended, not from any value in itself, but as a small token of affection, for the Master's sake, and the high estimation in which you are regarded by us--When our humble names appear before you Pray for us."2

    The squares in Sister Wade's quilt were sewn together by Jane Louisa Seddinger, a milliner active in the Sewing Society (Ann Rhees herself pieced in the square dedicated to Sister Wade); both Ann Rhees and Jane Seddinger have signed squares in the Wattson quilt. The verse insribed in Sister Seddinger's square, dated August 1847, underscores one of this quilt's primary functions:

    Rest 'neath this Quilt
    And rest in Heaven,
    When thy knee is bending
    And thy prayer ascending
    Oh then remember me.

    Dilys Blum, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 28.

    1. Quoted in William Williams Keen, ed., The Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Founding of the First Baptist Church of the City ofPhiladelphia, 1698-1898 (Philadelphia, 1899), p. 317.
    2. "Minutes of the Female Missionary Society of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia" (collection of the church).

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