Quilt and Two Pillow Shams

Red, green and yellow printed cotton design, brown vine, and green and brown birds are appliquéd with hem stitch with quilted tulips and leaves between appliqués. Edges are rolled over and sewn to reverse which is in four pieces. Pillow shams have appliqués similar to those of the quilt but with different fabrics. Three felled seams and rolled edge on shams.

Artist/maker unknown, American, Pennsylvania German

Made in Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Cotton plain weave with dyed and roller-printed cotton appliqué; tulip and variously patterned quilting (quilt). Cotton plain weave with printed cotton appliqués (pillow shams)

Quilt: 7 feet 4 inches × 6 feet 6 inches (223.5 × 198.1 cm) Shams: 17 1/4 × 22 1/2 inches (43.8 × 57.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Titus C. Geesey Collection, 1955

Social Tags [?]

american textiles [x]   quilt [x]  

[Add Your Own Tags]

Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu� Quilts

    This rare quilt with matching pillow covers helps to illustrate the transformation that occurred in Pennsylvania German textile bedding in the second half of the nineteenth century. The well-fitted bedstead of the eighteenth century included a down- or chaff-filled mattress, covered by a sheet or fitted tick, onto which a second, down-filled feather bed, also covered by a fitted tick, was placed. One or two bolster pillows, with two feather pillows placed on top, were set at the headboard, and the entire assemblage was covered with a woven coverlet. The Germanic tradition of sleeping under the second feather bed was apparently followed by many Pennsylvania Germans, although it was sometimes viewed with apprehension by visitors to their farms, as Elkanah Watson related in 1777:

    I was placed, between two beds, without sheets or pillows. This as I was told was a privailing custom, but, which as far as my experience goes, tends little to promote either sleep or comfort of a stranger.1

    As cultural interaction, trade, and technology increased, older traditions were transformed to accommodate new styles and domestic practices. By 1860, the decline of the coverlet and handweaving industry, together with the increased availability of inexpensive, colorfully printed cotton goods, helped to heighten interest in quiltmaking among Pennsylvania Geman women.2 Inventories from the last quarter of the nineteenth century suggest a change in the types and amounts of household bedding, and as the use of multiple bolsters and the second feather bed seems to have declined, the quilt often replaced the woven coverlet as the preferred bedcovering.

    Despite these changes, the bed and bedding remained important dowry possessions of Pennsylvania Geman women throughout the nineteenth century and were rarely listed as a part of the husband's estate. The craftsmanship and design of this rare quilt and its matching pillow covers demonstrate the care women continued to take in the creation of bedding textiles. Both the appliqué and quilted patterns are carefully stitched, and include a variety of motifs drawn from traditional and natural symbols that were commonly shared within the Pennsylvania German community. Jack L. Lindsey, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 38.

    1. Quoted in Alan G. Keyser, "Beds, Bedding, Bedsteads and Sleep," in Pieced by Mother, ed. Jeannette Lasansky (Lewisburg, Pa., 1987), p. 31.
    2. Patricia Herr, "What Distinguishes a Pennsylvania Quilt," in In the Heart of Pennsylvania: Symposium Papers, Jeannette Lasansky et al. (Lewisburg, Pa., I986), p. 33.