Storied Quilts from the Hudson River Museum

By Hudson River Museum

Hudson River Museum

The Hudson River Museum's collection features thirty quilts ranging from the 1840s to the 1990s. In addition to their aesthetic merit and meticulous craftsmanship, the six quilts featured here have well-documented histories, something rare in older textiles, whose stories are often lost to time. 

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These quilts from the HRM collection are presented in honor of the late Mayor of Yonkers Angelo R. Martinelli, a major supporter of the Woman’s Institute of Yonkers.

The exhibition is generously sponsored by The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

Anson Baldwin Quilt (1847) by Ladies Sewing Circle of St. John's ChurchHudson River Museum

Presentation quilts, known variously as commemorative, signature, or autograph quilts, were usually given as a remembrance of an event. This quilt is named after its recipient, Anson Baldwin, a judge and later a president of the First National Bank of Yonkers, New York. Many blocks are signed by prominent female members of St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Yonkers, who met in Baldwin’s home to sew quilts as charity projects for families in need. With this project, they honored their host with a quilt of his own.

This quilt features a rare pictorial center block surrounded by 32 pieced and appliquéd blocks, with star, flower, and pinwheel motifs. Farm workers feed chickens, tend cattle and pigs, pick flowers, and raise water from a well in a scene that may symbolically represent Baldwin’s homestead. Though the 1847 quilt predates the Civil War, the two people who appear to be African American would have been free in New York, which abolished slavery gradually between 1799 and 1827.

Above the central block, a symbolic hat represents Anson Baldwin’s partnership in the William C. Waring Hat Factory in Yonkers.

This block below the center scene displays an example of broderie perse appliqué, the oldest decorative technique represented in the Museum’s quilt collection. Used as early as the 1600s, the French term means "Persian embroidery" and refers to the use of figural elements cut from printed fabric and sewn onto a background.

Hunterdon County Signature Quilt (1860/1890) by UnknownHudson River Museum

This signature quilt has forty-two names of residents from Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Recent research reveals that several people listed here are married couples or otherwise related. A few repeated names suggest this quilt was made for fundraising, and some people contributed twice.

Planning a signature signed quilt of this kind required a pattern with spaces suitable to hold names. This design, one of a number of variations called the “chimney sweep”, is ideal because the central square within each block provides writing space. Womens’ magazines and household advice books gave recipes for indelible ink to use on textiles, often containing nitrate of silver and ammonia.

Lizzie J. Case (1861-1895) was married on Dec 8, 1883, to Whitefield Barris (or Barrass). They were married and lived in Union, Hunterdon Co., NJ

Anna Tiger (1848- 1885) was a house servant and the adult daughter of Christopher Tiger whose name is also on this quilt. Anna is one of the few people listed twice on the quilt.

Pieced Sampler Quilt (ca. 1887) by Adolph Schermer (1846-1934)Hudson River Museum

This sampler quilt diverges from the tradition of a quilt with one repeated pattern. Sampler quilts come in many forms, materials, and techniques, but all compile squares of different patterns or images as a “sample” of the artform.

In this quilt, Adolph Schermer created and assembled thirty pieced designs into one composition. A tailor by profession, he showed off both his needlework skills as well as some of the more sumptuous fabrics he would have on hand for accessories such as ties and cravats.

Schermer immigrated to New York from Austria-Hungary in the 1870s and lived on the Lower East Side. The block featuring an American flag within a Star of David is a poignant symbol of his religious heritage and patriotism.

Crazy Quilt (1886) by Pinkus and Ernestine TurkHudson River Museum

This quilt combines two styles—a geometric center surrounded by a crazy quilt border.. Besides suggesting a wild array, the term ‘crazy’ also refers to the crazing, or overall cracking, of the glaze on antique Asian ceramics, which many late nineteenth-century Americans admired and adapted to other art forms.

These quilts are also known as ‘patchwork’ because the technique demands piecing together irregularly shaped scraps of fabric.

The Turk family worked in the cravat business, which meant that they would have had easy access to a plethora of silk fabrics in solids and patterns. Silk crazy quilts fellout of fashion in the early twentieth century in part because they were not washable and the public became more aware of germs.

Pincus and Ernestine Turk, who came to New York from Germany as children, embroidered the names of their own children on the quilt, Willie and Lillie, ages 5 and 7. Additional embellished details include appliqués of hearts and an embroidered Star of David.

Bicentennial Quilt (1976) by Ellanora Kolb (1904–2000), Anna McDonough (ca. 1910–2000), and Pauline Ringler (1909–2006)Hudson River Museum

This example shows the continued popularity of commemorative quilts, from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth. Created by members of the Woman’s Institute of Yonkers in celebration of the United States Bicentennial, this quilt serves as a remembrance of an event meaning for a whole community rather than an individual. The squares feature several local historic sites illustrated in appliqué, such as Yonkers City Hall under the U.S. flag at the top.

Glenview, the Museum’s Gilded Age home, is in the lower left corner. This detail also depicts, from left to right the Church of the Immaculate Conception(St. Mary’s), Philipse Manor Hall, and Congregation Ohab Zedek, Yonkers' first synagogue.

The quilt includes a visual acknowledgment of the Munsee people of Lenape Nation, who were native to the land on which Yonkers was settled. Their village of Nappeckamack (meaning rapid water settlement) was located where the Neperah stream (the present-day Saw Mill River) flowed into the Shatemuck River (the Hudson).

This quilt project attracted local news coverage. When The Herald Statesman published a story about McDonough, Kolb, and Ringler’s collaboration on March 18, 1976, the artists had already been working on the squares for six months and still needed to assemble the quilt. They hoped the quilt would be “displayed throughout the city” and “stimulate young people to take up quilting."

Westchester Unity Quilt (1993/1994) by HRM Education Staff, Docents, and Other Program ParticipantsHudson River Museum

Also continuing in the tradition of nineteenth-century quilting bees, or gatherings, this quilt was started in a Family Art Workshop at the Hudson River Museum in 1993. At the time, the Museum displayed portions of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was begun in 1987 and memorializes more than 94,000 people who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. The heartbreaking and heartwarming labor of love inspired HRM staff to plan the Unity Quilt, which honors the lost life of Tito, son and brother of Jacqueline and Carmen Feliciano.

Local artist Arlé Sklar-Weinstein worked with Jacqueline and Carmen Feliciano to create the central image of the Hudson River and Palisades. The theme of unity of all Westchester County's people, reflected in the quilt’s title, is embodied in its border of squares celebrating African, Armenian, Italian, Jewish, Polish, and Puerto Rican heritage, among others.

Yvonne Borrelli and Cathy Shiga-Gattullo, who worked in the Museum’s Education Department, made the two squares at the upper left. Other makers who signed the quilt are Alice Basmajian, Bernice Chaiken, Carmen Felini, Eva Fishman, Deborah Gaynes, Mary Guido, Kimberly Leadbetter, Katy Macom, Maryam Martinez, Rosalie Pless, Connie Shulman, and Ruth Syrop.

Credits: Story

Related to the exhibition, Collection Spotlight: Storied Quilts from the Hudson River Museum, on view at the Hudson River Museum, June 18–September 26, 2021.

These quilts from the HRM collection are presented in honor of the late Mayor of Yonkers Angelo R. Martinelli, a major supporter of the Woman’s Institute of Yonkers.

The exhibition is generously sponsored by The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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