What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

A person’s name is more than a few letters and sounds that form a recognizable word. Names like Lady Gaga or Michael Jordan or Bill Clinton immediately conjure up enough stories and pictures in the mind to fill many pages. In other words, a name can represent everything we know about a person.

What’s In A Name? Inscribed Quilts is about the names of ordinary, but mostly forgotten, people inscribed on the quilts in this gallery. Using a combination of genealogical and historical research, a team of IQM staff, volunteer genealogists and affiliated scholars have rediscovered the stories and sketched the outlines of individual’s lives from long ago. In some cases, the research led us to living descendants who shared real photographs and stories handed down in their families.

What is in a name? Names inscribed on these quilts reveal networks of relationships and shared experiences and values such as friendship, honor, service, community and memory. Without the simple addition of pen and needle to cloth these people may have been forgotten. Our hope is that What’s In A Name? reveals that there is a story behind every name and inspires others to make their own inscribed quilt. And we hope some will take the heirloom quilt covered with names from their closet shelf and start discovering the stories in those names.

A full color catalog of this exhibition is available from the museum, made possible by a generous grant from the Quilter's Guild of Dallas

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Works in the Exhibition

Works in the Exhibition

King’s Crown variation 
Probably made by a member of the Pratt family Made in Mans eld, Massachusetts, dated 1847 
IQSC 2011.050.0001, Gift of Dione Stuart, Elizabeth Stuart, and Mary Stuart in memory of Sarah Pratt Wilson Stuart 

This brightly colored King’s Crown variation quilt holds clues that indicate it was made for seventeen-year-old Eunice Pratt. 

Inscriptions signed by Eunice’s family, including one from her father, Amasa, suggest that Eunice was leaving her family in 1847: “...But when around I look again / I find thou art away...” 

Eunice’s block is identical to one on its left that held a message of friendship, but did not include a name. A close examination of the quilt revealed evidence of writing beneath the blank muslin patch. Carefully loosening stitches along one edge, we discovered  an inscription in which the name had been marked through. The name was Addison Blake – the man that Eunice Pratt married in 1851. 

Unfortunately, the clues in this quilt’s inscriptions leave several questions unanswered. Did Eunice leave home in 1847 and where did she go? Why was Addison Blake’s name included on the quilt when he and Eunice didn’t marry until four years later? More importantly, why was Blake’s name obscured? Several researchers continue their search for evidence that will shed light on these questions.

Star variation 
Made by Ina Poulson (1876-1949) Crofton, Nebraska, dated 1935-1938 
IQSC 2011.009.0001, Gift of Ina Poulson’s granddaughters: Joanna Baxter, Wilma Lenz, Mary Larson, and Alice Poulson 

In 1934, Ina Poulson began a star-patterned quilt that features embroidered names of individuals from California to Connecticut to Crofton, Nebraska. She included names of family, friends, neighbors and students from Crofton, and members of her Crofton, Nebraska, Congregational Church, as well as those of now- scattered friends from South Dakota, where prior to her marriage, she and her brothers homesteaded. During a visit  to the East Coast to see her family in 1938, she added names of relatives in New York and Connecticut. Poulson used a  letter code to identify many of the names. A letter ‘C’ represents Crofton residents, a single letter ‘S’ represents students, and the double ‘SS’ indicates a member of her Sunday School class.  Poulson gathered onto her quilt the names of people who intersected her life from youth through adulthood, both those who she interacted with for a short time and those whose relationships formed the nucleus of her daily life. The Star quilt, therefore, is a symbolic diary of events and relationships that were important throughout Poulson’s lifetime. 

Original, Women’s Society of Christian Service Quilt 
Made by Rose Ehling Rumford (1896-1975) Abbyville, Reno County, Kansas, 1954 IQSC 2008.040.0108, Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection 

Two inscriptions on this quilt made in south central Kansas led to the discovery of its primary maker, Rose Rumford, and its purpose as a gift for Mrs. Thomas Williams, the wife of the Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) District Superintendent. One inscription reads “Presented by Abbyville W.S.C.S., 1954”.
The second includes Rumford’s name (Mrs. Floyd Rumford) and Abbyville, a small town in rural Reno County, Kansas. If the Abbyville WSCS presented the quilt, we reasoned that Rumford surely participated in the project. 

Rumford’s obituary listed her children, including two daughters, Glenna Dellenbach and Evelyn Garrison, who still lived in Abbyville. We contacted the daughters during our research. Dellenbach and Garrison not only recalled their mother making the quilt, but remembered helping her as pressure mounted to complete it before the district meeting in 1954. 

For many decades, women’s organizations within religious congregations made inscribed quilts as part of their service. These quilts have honored ministers and other church leaders, raised money for a variety of purposes, and showed pride in membership. Rumford celebrated the work of the Kansas WSCS by creating a quilt that captured the values, leadership, and commitment that members of the organization shared and continued a time-honored function for inscribed quilts. 

Original, Harris Family Quilt 
Made by Susa Hale Harris (1876-1961), 1925-1945 Hunt County, Texas 
IQSC 2006.054.0001, Purchase made possible through the James Foundation Acquisition Fund 

Beginning in the upper left corner, this quilt provides a row-by-row chronological listing of marriages, births, and deaths of the Susa and Tom Harris family. They married in 1896 and began their life together in Kauffman County, Texas, where Tom supported the growing family as a struggling cotton farmer. Eventually they relocated to nearby Hunt County. 

Susa Harris’s grandson Tommy Harris, who provided family provenance, understood how special this quilt was to his grandmother. She stored it in a handmade wooden trunk where she also kept papers documenting her efforts to recover her son Preston’s body for burial after his death in World War II. Susa Harris died in 1961. Finally, in 2005, officials identified Preston’s remains in a German battlefield site and returned them to the family. 

Harris’s grandson could not be certain why his grandmother made the quilt, but by telling us where she kept the quilt in her home we can surmise that it symbolized her ardent devotion to her family’s memory. 

Double Nine Patch 
Made by the Ladies Aid Society, Lutheran Church, Bailey’s Corner Trumbull County, Ohio, 1880-1900 IQSC 2006.043.0212, Ardis and Robert James Collection 

This Double Nine Patch quilt holds more than five hundred and thirty names. Genealogical records provided the individuals’ location, and comparison of birth and marriage dates helped us establish a broad date range for the quilt’s creation. The  1880 Federal census listed the occupations of those named on the quilt, twenty of whom were Lutheran preachers, ministers, or “gospel tellers.” 

Our volunteer researcher immediately turned to a local history of Trumbull County, Ohio, to determine why these individuals were featured on the quilt. Imagine our delight when she discovered that the history included an excerpt from a Ladies Aid Society report that described the quilt and its use as a fundraiser to furnish the new church building: “The ladies met in the old church on March 29, 1879, and organized an aid society for the purpose of obtaining funds to furnish the new church building ... The work of the society ... consisted of sewing, knitting, and fancy work ... [and] also a ‘memorial quilt,’ containing five hundred and thirty names, the proceeds of which were $61.75.” 

The history book also included the names of the 1880 Ladies Aid Society officers on the quilt: Mary Simmons, president; Mrs. A. D. Bailey, vice-president; Lottie Kistler, secretary; and Libbie Cunningham, treasurer. That these names appear on the quilt, further verifies that our quilt is the one mentioned in the report. 

Original, All American Signature Quilt 
Mina Kuthe (1908-1986), circa 1974-1975 Maywood, Illinois Quilted by members of St. Paul Lutheran church, Melrose 
Park, Illinois 
IQSC 2006.022.0001, Purchase made possible through the James Foundation Acquisition Fund 

“What’s blue and white and read all over; star-spangled, diamond-studded and heavy with celebrated American names? It’s Mina Kuthe’s salute to the United States Bicentennial!” This is how a Chicago Tribune reporter described Mina Kuthe’s 1974 effort to gather autographs for a special bicentennial quilt. She decided to make this quilt after reading a Life Magazine article about a quilt signed by Abraham Lincoln. 

Kuthe was not bashful about writing 200 letters to entertainers, broadcasters, sports figures, and politicians. One hundred and fifty-four people returned her swatch of fabric with their signature. Among those who responded  were: comedian Carol Burnett, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and entertainer Frank Sinatra, Jr. The performer Liberace included a sketch of his piano, complete with flickering candelabra. 

Kuthe received two signatures from Gerald R. Ford, the first while he was Vice President of the United States. After Richard Nixon’s resignation, she wrote again to Ford, requesting his presidential signature  

The quilt includes a field of white stars in its dark blue border, each embroidered with the name of a state and arranged counterclockwise in the order the state was admitted to the Union. 

Maker unknown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, dated 1842 and 1843 
IQSC 2005.059.0001, Purchase made possibly through the James Foundation Acquisition Fund 

The Wistar family Album quilt’s presentation block indicates that family and friends gave the quilt as a gift to Sarah Wistar. The quilt illustrates values important to the Wistar family: an artfully rendered family tree emphasizes family memory, and an inscription dedicated to President William H. Harrison indicates the family’s political allegiance. Religious service to the local community is apparent in blocks listing Quaker organizations in which Sarah Wistar served, including the Widowhouse, Aimwell School, and the House of Industry, an organization founded in 1795 to provide employment for women as spinners and workers in early day-care centers. 

Sarah Wistar never married but was obviously close to her young nieces and nephews and admired by her community. The inscribed messages on this quilt indicate that Wistar, like the tall, strong family tree found on the quilt, was a pillar of her family and community. 

Maker unknown Made in Lincoln, Nebraska, circa 1921 IQSC 1998.004.0001 

Extensive research of this University of Nebraska quilt suggests two possible inspirations for its creation, both linked to the Palladian Literary Society (PLS), a student organization founded in 1871 at the Lincoln campus. The first possibility is that the quilt honored the work of Harriett Wyman Wilder, whose name is featured in the quilt’s center. Wyman taught temporarily in the Engineering Department and became an honorary member of the PLS in 1920. She left in 1921 for missionary work in Madura, India, and married shortly thereafter. 

The second theory is that PLS members made the quilt to celebrate the Society’s 50th anniversary and to raise funds for the Harry Kirke Wolfe Research Fellowship in Philosophy. The student organization pledged to raise $3000 toward the scholarship fund. Wolfe, an 1882 graduate, former member of the PLS, a Professor of Philosophy, and greatly admired by many students, died suddenly in 1918. In the years before World WarI, Wolfe, along with others in the university community, took a stand against U.S. involvement in the war. 

Though we cannot confidently assert the specific purpose of the quilt, the events and people surrounding it taught us that sometimes ordinary people distinguish themselves by taking risks or making sacrifices, such as performing religious service far from home or expressing unpopular political views. 

Friendship Block 
Mercy Jane Bancroft Blair South Apalachin, New York, circa 1855-1863 IQSC 1997.007.0852, Ardis and Robert James Collection 

A note attached to this quilt states that it was made by friends for Mercy Jane (Bancroft) Blair. However, with diligent research and the help of Blair descendants, we learned that the quilt was likely made 
by Blair in 1863. This fact was confirmed when Blair’s great, great-granddaughter visited the original Blair farm, where she received an unexpected find—a cache of thirty-two diaries kept by Bancroft from 1859-1900! 

In the diaries Blair mentioned dresses and a number of quilts she worked on for clients, but in an 1863 entry she noted that she finished the binding on “my quilt.” Could this be the same quilt that became a part of the IQSC Collections almost 140 years later? Evidence from the diaries and quilt supports this conclusion. First, each block shares its corner patch with adjacent blocks, an unlikely design choice for a quilt with blocks contributed by many individuals. In addition, the names inscribed on the quilt appear to be written by the same hand. Also, Blair described fabrics she used in sewing for her clients and they match the fabric in quilts blocks with the clients’ names. For example, she wrote that she received twenty-five cents for making a brown polka-dotted dress for Mrs. Elnina Brown. Mrs. Brown’s block is composed of brown polka-dotted fabric. All of this evidence points to Blair carefully preserving leftover fabrics and including them in the quilt as mementos of her friends and family. 

Signature Quilt 
Maker unknown Lewis County, Missouri, dated 1926 
IQSC 2008.021.0001, Purchase made possible through the James Foundation Acquisition Fund 

Rarely do quilts provide detailed information about their fundraising purpose. However, this quilt, made for the Garnett Grange of Lewis County, Missouri, bears the following inscription: “This quilt has 892 names which brought $172.00 and sold for $51.00.” Another notation commemorates Emma Ertel, who sold 156 names and raised $73.00. 

The Garnett Grange is a local chapter of a national fraternal order known as the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. Founded in 1867, the Grange was established to improve the economic and social position of the nation’s  farm population, including farm women and children. This local Grange was named in honor of the Garnett family, prominent residents and landowners who came to Lewis County, Missouri, in the 1830’s from Kentucky. John Garnett served nine terms as the Garnett Grange Master in the late 1880s and 1890s. 

Although we know the quilt was made for fundraising, our research continues in hope that we will discover the specific fundraising project. This knowledge will add to our understanding of the many types of projects undertaken and the extent to which organizations used quilts to raise money.

Maker unknown
Made in Ossining, New York, dated 1857
IQSC 2007.001.0001, Purchase made possible through the James Foundation Acquisition Fund

This Album quilt came to the IQSCM with a dealer’s note stating that the women of a church congregation made it as a gift for their minister and that the dealer purchased the quilt directly from the minister’s descendants. Research confirmed that the persons named on the quilt were from Ossining, New York, but did not provide evidence to corroborate the family story.

Appliqué album quilts such as this were popular during the mid-nineteenth century, but this example includes unusual pictorial appliqués such as an elephant in one block and a lyre, sheet music, and the inscription, “The Sabbath Bell,” in another. This text was taken from a poem  by Robert Gilfillan entitled, “A Sabbath Among the Moorlands,” which describes the Sabbath bell calling the faithful to church services:

The Sabbath bell! how glad the sound,
That calls from earthly care,
To worship in the solemn place-- The holy house of prayer!
But chiefly in the moorland wild,
In some sequestered dell,
Far from the stirring haunts of men, I love the Sabbath bell!

The text is appropriate for a quilt presented to a minister, adding credibility to the family’s story. However, until additional historical evidence is discovered, the family story must be considered anecdotal information.

Album Block 
Maker unknown Probably made in Ohio, dated 1879, 1880 and 1891 IQSC 2006.043.0019, Ardis and Robert James Collection 

“What is in a name? Ah Shakespeare, there you blundered, Stitched in a quilt, there is hard cash in a hundred!” Author George L. Taylor inscribed this clever verse on a patch of white cloth in this quilt. Additional inscriptions also suggest that the quilt was made to raise money. 

This simple inscribed quilt includes 255 “celebrity” autographs from politicians, writers, women activists, cartoonists, merchants, Methodist church leaders, and entertainers. Members of the world famous Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, a historically black university in Nashville, also inscribed their names. But nowhere is there indication of who made the quilt or the cause to which these notable persons lent their support. 

A large number of individuals appear to have signed patches at the 1880 Methodist General Conference meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. Anna Oliver, for example, the first woman to graduate from the Boston University School of Theology, attended the conference. Oliver, in 1879, purchased a church building in Brooklyn, New York, and started her own Methodist congregation. At the 1880 General Conference, she petitioned the church to allow ordination of women as clergy. The petition was denied and in 1883, Oliver was forced to close her church. 

While we do not know who made this quilt, the effort to gather autographs from a literal Who’s Who of religious and popular society helps us understand the importance of the cause to the maker. 

Maker unknown, probably a member of the Hargest Family Probably made in Baltimore, Maryland, dated 1845 
IQSC 2005.022.0001 Purchase made possible through the James Foundation Acquisition Fund 

The inscriptions on the two center blocks of the Hargest album quilt reveal its purpose. It is dedicated to Hannah  and James Hargest, who died in 1838 and 1843. In addition to the individuals listed on each block, tiny cross-stitched numbers follow each name, noting the birth order of the Hargest children and grandchildren, as well as additional family members, including parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. This is significant because U.S. Census records prior to 1840 did not record women’s and children’s names, making it difficult for genealogists to verify ages and birth order. 

Hannah Evans and James Hargest departed Herefordshire, England, in 1804, shortly after they married. They settled in in an area of Baltimore known as Darley Hall, where James used an inheritance from his father’s estate to purchase farm land. 

The Hargest album emphasizes the importance to the maker of creating a lasting, tangible record of family history. Today, Hargest family descendants continue that effort through genealogical research that they have shared with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. The quilt’s maker would be satis ed to know that the values she expressed in her quilt remain vitally important to her family 160 years after her efforts. 

Works in the Exhibition
This exhibition was made possible through funding from Friends of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Quilters Guild of Dallas, and the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov for more information.
Event Date
Friday, January 13, 2012 to Sunday, December 2, 2012