Texas Star by Isal Frazier (1976-1999). Image courtesy of The Quilt Index.
Red White and Blue Quilts
By Marian Ann J. Montgomery, Ph.D. Curator of Clothing and Textiles,
The Museum of Texas Tech University
The colors of red, white and blue dominate our summertime festivities so I thought it might be nice to look at two 19th century red, white and blue quilts in the collection of the The Museum of Texas Tech University. The first is a pattern with several names, which is not uncommon. Its names include New York Beauty, Crown of Thorns and Rocky Mountain Road. Quilt historians like to call the quilt what the family called it, but also will refer to it with the common name. At the Museum of Texas Tech University we like to call this one, Rocky Mountain Road.
Rocky Mountain Road Quilt, pieced in 1858 by an unknow quilter.
Quilted by Mary Ann Nelson McNeese (Mrs. H.J) in 1898.
Gift of Mrs. J.C.Morton. TTU-H1969-061. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Texas Tech University.
This quilt was pieced in 1858 and quilted in 1898. It is unknown who pieced this very difficult pattern. It came with a family history that it was pieced for the donor’s great-grandmother, the mother of Andrew Nelson, a hero of the Alamo. But it doesn’t list her name. Because he was an Alamo hero, he is listed on the Texas State Historical Association website and his mother is named there as Elizabeth Mansfield Nelson (Mrs. John).
Mrs. Nelson came to Texas from Tennessee with her children after the death of her husband. Interestingly this pattern was very popular in Tennessee, but it is likely that it was pieced in Texas sometime after she settled in the state. After receiving the top as a gift at the age of 4, Mary Ann Nelson McNeese (Mrs. H. J.) quilted it in 1898. She gave it to Mrs. J. C. Morton at the time of her marriage.
Star of the East Quilt, 1860-1890. Created for Reverend Marshall's family who iived in Colorado.
Gift of Mr and Mrs. Yancey Price.
TTU-H1976-133-002. Photo courtesy of Museum of Texas Tech University.
The second quilt, Star of the East Quilt, was made circa 1860-1890 for Rev. Marshall’s family who the family history states lived in Colorado and that he was a missionary to Egypt. The arrangement of these blocks is interesting in that there is no sashing, but the Star of the East or Circle Saw blocks have a diagonal arrangement of blue blocks between them. The block is shown in Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns as #3808. The quilt has a marvelous floral swag border, which must have been smashing before the red fabric deteriorated.
Several of the mid-nineteenth century quilts in the Museum’s collections have lots of red fabric. Research into why these red fabrics have disintegrated so much would be interesting. It is likely that it had to do with the acidic content of the dyes used to create the red color. Still, these two red, white and blue quilts are striking.
Learn more about the Museum of Texas Tech University Textile Collections.