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Made by Zibiah Smallwood Hewson, American, 1749 - 1815. Center and possibly other textiles printed by John Hewson, American, 1745 - 1821.

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



Cotton plain weave with block-printed cotton appliqué and pieced work

8 feet 8 inches × 9 feet 10 inches (264.2 × 299.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Miss Ella Hodgson, 1934

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Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu� Quilts

    The center square of this bedcover, which was pieced together by Zibiah Smallwood Hewson, was produced by her husband John Hewson (c. 1745 - 1821). One of America's foremost calico printers, Hewson worked in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1810. Before emigrating to America in 1773, he was employed by a leading English textile printworks, Talwin and Foster, at Bromley Hall near London. In Philadelphia the first advertisement for Hewson's textiles appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette on July 20, 1774, announcing the availability of "patterns for printing calicoes and linens for gowns, &c. coverlids [coverlets], handkerchiefs, . . . waistcoats and breeches, &c." His fame as a textile printer grew with the years, and in the Grand Federal Procession of July 4, 1788, Hewson was the principal feature of a float sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts. According to a contemporary description, on the float

    was fixed the apparatus of Mr. Hewson printing muslins of an elegant chintz pattern and Mr. Lang [his partner] designing and cutting prints and shawls; on the right was seated Mrs. Hewson [his first wife, not Zibiah Smallwood] and her four daughters, pencilling a piece of neat sprigged chintz of Mr. Hewson's printing, all dressed in cotton of their own manufacture. . . . On a lofty staff was displayed the calico printers flag.'1

    In 1790 the Society awarded Hewson a gold medal for the best example of calico printing in the state.

    Despite their contemporary popularity, the only documented Hewson textiles to survive are two large coverlets (one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum), a number of squares, several of which were incorporated into the center of pieced-work quilts (including this example), and two handkerchiefs (both in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia). Both of the coverlets are elaborately block-printed panels with swagged borders and center squares with a flower-filled urn flanked by butterflies and birds. The center squares were also produced separately in several variations and in at least two colorways for use in quilt tops, such as this bedcover made by Hewson's second wife. The subject and format of the center squares may have had their origins in Dutch flower-piece engravings from the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as those by Nicholaes de Bryn, Adrian Collaert, and Claes Jansz Visscher, as well as earlier German flower paintings by Ludger Tom Ring the Younger. Hewson's flower-filled urn is a neoclassical reinterpretation of an earlier form. The source of the smaller motifs may have been found in seventeenth-century Dutch pattern books and English engravings, which were similar to the needlework designs sold by the London print-sellers and publishers Peter Stent and John Overton. Their stock included a series of designs for birds on sprigs, parrots, and butterflies that could have been easily traced onto wood blocks for printing on fabric.

    The block-printed fabrics used in this Hewson bedcover are most likely English, although one, the blue-and-white resist pattern, may well be one of John Hewson's own "very neat gown patterns" in deep blue with white advertised in the Pennsylvania Packet on November 9, 1779. In any case, the small-patterned prints were originally dress fabrics dating from between 1790 and 1810. The trellis print on the side panels, however, is a furnishing fabric that would have been equally appropriate for slipcovers, draperies, or bed hangings.

    The framed center-square pattern is one of the earliest pieced-work formats, and was popular in both America and England during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This Hewson example is similar in layout to others dating from about 1790 to 1800, such as the so-called Penn's Treaty pieced quilt made by Martha Washington (preserved at Mount Vernon, Virginia). Dilys Blum, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 10.

    1. Pennsylvania Gazette, July 9, 1788.

  • PublicationThe Fine Art of Textiles

    Zibiah Smallwood Hewson was the wife of the first American calico printer, John Hewson (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1930-100-1) who printed the center square of this bedcover. Dilys E. Blum, from The Fine Art of Textiles: The Collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), p. 93.