Signature Patriot Collection

by Sara Morgan, 1840-­1850

Patriotic quilts, so named for their symbolic colors and motifs, have been popular since the 18th Century. With women devoid of the right to vote until 1920, these quilts were their primary means of political expression and support for their country. Women used quilts as their voices to make political statements and voice their opinions.

Political and cultural events, such as the Civil War, shaped patriotic quilts not only through specific patterns and motifs, but also by changing their style over time. For example, before the Civil War, it was not typical for individual families and businesses to fly the American flag ­ this was usually reserved for government buildings and the military. But from the beginning of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, flying national flags became extremely popular in both the North and South, and the flag became the chief patriotic motif and an important staple in the history of American quilting.

Though hundreds of thousands of these quilts were made during the Civil War, they were subject to heavy use, making surviving examples extremely rare and particularly cherished. The inspirational piece for this collection dates back to 1840­1850, and is truly unique since it is also a signature quilt, featuring the name(s) and date(s) of the individual quilt blocks and the women who created them. It is believed to be a collaborative piece from a ladies sewing club out of North Virginia. The signature panel piece which serves as the focal piece of this collection, is a true replica of the original antique quilt.

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