Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Folk Art Quilt Features Native American

Above is a quilt I saw on-line at a Case Antiques auction in September 2011 located in Knoxville, Tennessee. It looked so familiar, yet I could not recall where I had seen it.

Today I was flipping thru my copy of Woodard & Greenstein's "Twentieth Century Quilts 1900-1950" published by E.P. Dutton in 1988, and there it was on page 63.

What do you suppose the odds might be that these two quilts were made in the same community?  The Case Auction took place in Kentucky.  The Woodard-Greenstein book say the golden-colored "Indian" quilt originated in Pennsylvania. Oh, wouldn't the sources of these two quilts be a fun mystery to track down!


Thanks to a lot of sleuthing on another AQSG member's part (my friend Barb Garrett), two more Indian quilts have now been located on the Internet.

The 3rd one -- blue and red -- may well be the original one that inspired all others. I am posting photos of it courtesy of Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, LLC of York County, PA. YOu can also see these photos on his website here. Do take some time to browse his website by clicking here to see more great Americana!

Here is the description of the above quilt from the Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, LLC website:


This ca 1910 window pane quilt, with nine Indians holding drawn bows, is one of the best folk image quilts I have seen reach the marketplace in the past year. The fact that it transcends several categories of Americana: quilts, folk art, and Native American-related art, makes it all the more desirable and extraordinary. Take note of how the squat form of the figures closely resembles that of the hood ornaments found on late 19th century freight trains.

Only three or so Indian quilts are known in this basic design. Of these, two (both red and blue) came out of Pennsylvania German estates in the Lebanon County - Berks County region. This is believed to be one of those two.

The 4th such quilt was found by Barb here at still another antique dealer in Howard, Ohio. Be sure to click on the additional photos on their website. Their business is called America's Antiques LLC. They have quite a presence on eBay as well. Definitely worth checking them out, too. (I have no affiliation with any of these dealers.)

The description reads:

This 1950's Indian crib quilt is made with dark peach cotton for the Indians, chocolate brown cotton for the sashing and borders, and bright white cotton for the zig zags and background.  It measures 49" x 45", has a thin cotton batting, a machine applied binding, and a red & white checked back.  Hand quilted with radiating Chevron quilting on the blocks and outline quilting on the sashing & borders @ 6 stitches per inch.  Professionally hand laundered, we found very, very light bleed around the Indians, a couple faint spots, and a couple professional repairs to the white background.  This is a very rare crib quilt - the first we've had in over 30 years!!

Well, I still don't have a definitive answer about what inspired the first quilt (i.e. no paper trail dating back to the maker) but weathervanes are a distinct possibility.  Plus, Jeff Bridgeman, who once owned the blue and red quilt, suggests that it resembles a 19th century train hood ornament.

The weathervanes  seem much more likely the design source to me.  Here is a prime example from the cover of the summer 1989 issue of The Clarion, the name the American Folk Art Museum in New York once gave their quarterly magazine. I found this on eBay today here.

I see a faint resemblance as well between the first "Indian" quilt and the book cover below about Mayan art.  This is probably a looong stretch, but it caught my eye nevertheless.

Always more research to do and never enough time. Half the time I just hope to wet someone's appetite to begin some research of their own on any of these subjects.  We will never run out of research material!


PS:  After this story was posted, Joy Swartz of Arizonia wrote me: Over the past ten years I have seen two quilts with this same Indian pattern. Both were in Indiana. Both quilts were white, with the Indians on four sections in red. The Indians were not pieced nor appliqued, but rather stenciled on. The last one was just last year at a small southern Indiana town antique show. Cheap fabric, basic stencil, poorly quilted, looked from 1950s.


  1. Fascinating, do let us know if you find more information. What about contacting Barbara Brackman?

  2. I love these! I'll bet the makers were related in some way. Glad you spotted them.

  3. This is the first time I have seen Indians in the quilt! Fascinating!

  4. What an interesting design. I really like the Indians and would be interesting to make a block.

  5. Hope you can learn more and post about it.

  6. These are great quilts!!
    I love the pattern....I will have to draw one up and make one for myself....Thanks for sharing them

  7. Great update! That red and blue quilt just glows, doesn't it? Wow! Do you think anymore Indian quilts were surface?

  8. It just keeps getting better and better. Absolutely love the blue and red one you added to the post. They are all winners.

  9. Fascinating as always...you can sure see the connection between the Mayan Art figures and the last quilt...