Collecting, reproducing and otherwise inspired by antique quilts
Back in March 2016, I wrote a post about a signature quilt I had acquired and called it “nearly” my holy grail of quilts. It is a special quilt with beautiful Turkey red fabric appliqued in a fleur de lis pattern. It also has lots of names and places that I’ve been able to research and trace the quilt to a church community in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. There is still much to do with it but it will be set aside for a while as I think I have found a new, exciting project. It is an album quilt from Maryland, dated 1843. It is not a Baltimore album quilt in the definition I use – an album quilt made in Baltimore — but is an early Maryland example of the Baltimore style (pre-dates the true Baltimore album quilts) and comes from an area in Baltimore county, just outside of Baltimore.
Today I am sharing a set of pictures I took randomly of some of the quilt blocks with inscriptions of surnames that appear multiple times on the quilt.
A picture of the center block is above. The quilt is a 25 block album quilt and it is huge, approximately 104” x 104”. It looks like J… Musslman is embroidered in cross-stitch, along with that 1843 cross-stitched date. Note the spelling of the last name because it appears in other places on the quilt, spelled differently. I’d also like your opinion, if you have one, about the first initial and what I think are dots after it. Is that a “J” do you think? Do those look like dots to you? Why three dots instead of just one like we would use today after an initial? There is at least one other place where it looks like there is another first initial with several dots following it. A detailed photo of the inscription is below. I’d love to hear what you think.
Take note of the light pink fabric. I’ve seen other early quilts, circa 1840 and earlier, use light blue and light pink fabrics and the pink shows up a lot in this quilt. The block pictured below (looks like a carnation to me but I don’t know flowers) uses what I think is the same pink fabric as the center block. The name Margaret Baker is embroidered, along with the town name of Reisterstown, in red thread using an outline stitch. A detail photo of the inscription follows the block picture. My friend, Debby Cooney, an expert on Baltimore album quilts, did some very quick research and found that a Margaret Baker married a Jacob Mussleman (the name was spelled with an “e” in the record she found) in Baltimore. Their birth dates put them at marrying age right around 1843. This is an intriguing lead.
The next bit I would like to share is of a block I am calling “Christmas Cactus.” As I said, I don’t know flowers, but the applique on this block looks very much like the Christmas cactus my colleague has in the office next door to mine at work. I also believe there are other Maryland album quilts with blocks called Christmas cactus by others. If you are better at botany than me, please weigh in with your opinion.
This block has another embroidered name (detail photo below) that is harder to make out, mainly because the stitcher either used a neutral colored thread or the thread faded. The last name is definitely Wooden, a name that appears elsewhere on the quilt, but the first name is a mystery. Please leave a comment if you have any ideas.
The next photo is a stamped, not embroidered, name found on a grape block. It, too, is a little hard to make out. There look to be two initials in place of the first name but I am uncertain as to what they are. The last name is definitely another version of Muselman, this time spelled with an “e” and only one “s”.
I didn’t take a full picture of the grape block yet, but I want to share the detail photo below because the grapes are simply amazing. Unfortunately, the grapes on the block are in very bad shape because they were crammed with stuffing and the fabric just couldn’t handle it. But, look how small and tightly packed those bunches of grapes are. I am going to try to do some conservation on this quilt and I plan on starting with the grapes so I don’t lose the opportunity to study how they were made.
I have only studied the quilt once so far but have noted some elements that, even without the place names, suggest this is a Maryland quilt. I’ll discuss those in the next post so check back soon.