The Colonel’s Lady Quilt
White Whole-Cloth quilt with stuffed design.Full description »
White Whole-Cloth quilt with stuffed design. Central medallion contains Lady Liberty under the outstretched wings of the emblematic eagle, with seventeen stars above. Close quilted diamonds fill the space between the central image and the floral designs. Three sides of the quilt are fringed, as well as either end of the top edge.
A hallmark of the wealthy, who had the resources to keep them clean, early nineteenth-century All-White quilts provided the means for accomplished needlewomen to display their dexterity. This quilt uses the techniques of stuffing ('trapunto') and cording. 'Trapunto' was popular in America at the end of the eighteenth century and during the first half of the nineteenth. Small slits have been cut in the back of this quilt – where stuffing has been inserted – and then discreetly re-stitched.
All-White quilts traditionally have a central medallion that is surrounded by one or more borders of floral or geometric design. The subjects pictured in the medallion varied. This quilt features Liberty, adorned with her cap and wielding the Union flag, encircled by symbols of martial might (the drum, cannon and cannonballs). Above her is a spread eagle holding an olive branch in its beak, surrounded by seventeen stars. Although the number of stars suggests a date for this quilt of 1803 (when there were seventeen states in the Union), this is not the case.
The fact that Mary Waldron Thompson was the wife of a soldier may explain the military and patriotic nature of its decoration. Her husband was Colonel Alexander Thompson, and she accompanied him to frontier forts in what was then known as ‘Indian Territory’. They were the hosts of General Lafayette at Fort Niagara, when he visited during his celebrated tour of America (August 1824 to September 1825). After her husband’s death, Mrs Thompson lobbied Congress to provide pensions for the widows of army officers.