Great Art

The Speed Art Museum
 
 
Traveling Exhibitions & Art Installations   Previous Exhibitions   Online Exhibitions
 
 
Kentucky Quilts
Kentucky-associated quilts in the Bingham-Miller Family Collection range in date from the mid-nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth century. These quilts are connected to the state either through their histories or their place of acquisition, rather than through the use of particular patterns, materials, or techniques; with very few exceptions, there aren't particular features that identify a quilt as being made in the state.

Rather, Kentucky quilts reflect the diverse practices of their makers. As with Kentucky artisans like cabinetmakers and silversmith, the state's quilters included both Kentucky natives and those who came from other states. Some, no doubt, were foreign born. The makers thus brought varied tastes and traditions to their quilt production.

Despite the often individualistic nature of quilts, there is some evidence of regional similarities within the state. Within this exhibition, the quilt attributed to Emma Bridges and that by Virginia Mason Ivey, both of which originated in the western part of Kentucky, share so many design features as to suggest some sort of relationship between the two.
L2010.42.15
L2010.42.15
Hannah Huxley
(American, 1804-1876)
Star of Bethlehem, 1832
Possibly Delaware
Hannah Huxley
(American, 1804-1876)
Star of Bethlehem, 1832
Cottons
Possibly Delaware
107 x 111 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.15

This quilt's exact origin remains uncertain, an issue often encountered with Kentucky-associated quilts (and with quilts made elsewhere). A label identified its maker as Hannah Huxley, wife of Elisha Huxley. By repute, the Huxleys lived in Covington, Kentucky, at the time of the quilt's creation. However, census, land, and tax records do not place any Huxleys in the area between 1800 and 1850, nor do any Huxleys appear in the Kentucky census through 1870. Confusing matters further, some features of the quilt's design are reminiscent of examples made in Delaware and Pennsylvania; an Elisha and Hannah Huxley who married in 1826 lived in Wilmington, Delaware (this Hannah Huxley's supposed life dates were 1805-1874).

Quilts like this with large, decorated central medallions began to be made in the late eighteenth century. Their vocabulary of forms and techniques greatly influenced the development of American quilting practices of the nineteenth century. This is an especially fine example of a center medallion quilt, using costly fabrics to create a vibrant, meticulously executed design.
Hannah Huxley
(American, 1804-1876)
Star of Bethlehem, 1832
Possibly Delaware
L2010.42.15
L2010.42.35
L2010.42.35
Rose Wreath, about 1850
Valley Station, Kentucky
Rose Wreath, about 1850
Cottons
Valley Station, Kentucky
101 x 95 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.35

Beginning in the 1840s, quilts that combined white backgrounds with designs (usually floral) in red and green became increasingly popular. The style seems to have originated in the Middle Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and Maryland before spreading westward. The color combination and patterns used for many red and green quilts relate to the decoration of other household objects of the time, including professionally woven coverlets, decorative floor and wall stenciling, and painted furniture and tinwork. This quilt's symmetrical combination of stylized wreaths and undulating border, for example, is especially reminiscent of woven coverlets and carpets.
Rose Wreath, about 1850
Valley Station, Kentucky
L2010.42.35
L2010.42.43
L2010.42.43
Susan Frances Poindexter Cooper
(American, born about 1827)
Whitework Quilt, about 1850
Logan County, Kentucky
Susan Frances Poindexter Cooper
(American, born about 1827)
Whitework Quilt, about 1850
Cotton
Logan County, Kentucky
94 x 91 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.43

Though we typically think of quilts as a combination of complex geometric patterns and colorful fabrics, some quilts from the late eighteenth century through the first half of nineteenth century looked like this one: starkly white. The decoration comes only from the quilting, which provides the outline for various patterns and images. These decorative elements were given shape by stuffing cotton batting through the weave of the quilt back. The whitework quilting tradition in America derived from professionally produced European white quilts.
Susan Frances Poindexter Cooper
(American, born about 1827)
Whitework Quilt, about 1850
Logan County, Kentucky
L2010.42.43
1986.12
1986.12
Virginia Mason Ivey
(American, born 1828)
Figural and Floral Quilt, about 1860
Logan County, Kentucky
Virginia Mason Ivey
(American, born 1828)
Figural and Floral Quilt, about 1860
Cotton, wool
Logan County, Kentucky
102-1/4 x 85-1/2 in.

Purchased for the Museum through the efforts of the Kentucky Quilt Project, Shelly Zegart, Eleanor Bingham Miller and Jonathan Holstein, and through the generosity of the Bingham Enterprises Foundation of Kentucky, Incorporated, and several anonymous donors 1986.12

In describing her spinster aunt, one of Virginia Ivey's nieces wrote, "She never had any lessons in Art [sic], just her own intent and creative instinct." These qualities served Ivey well; this quilt, made in Logan County, Kentucky (along the Kentucky-Tennessee border in western Kentucky), and another surviving example by Ivey at the Smithsonian Institution reflect the hand of a gifted designer and technician. Ivey was particularly adept at using raised motifs, often of a documentary nature, to decorate her quilts' white grounds. Here, she included the figure of Kentucky statesman and three-time presidential candidate Henry Clay. She copied her heroic depiction from an engraving published in the April 28, 1860, Harper's Magazine that, in turn, reproduced Joel Tanner Hart's statue of Clay erected in New Orleans in 1859.

Though not technically part of the Bingham-Miller family collection, this quilt came to the Speed thanks to Eleanor Bingham Miller and Shelly Zegart, both of whom were leaders of the Kentucky Quilt Project. During the 1980s, the KQP organized a landmark effort to find and record nineteenth-century Kentucky quilts.
Virginia Mason Ivey
(American, born 1828)
Figural and Floral Quilt, about 1860
Logan County, Kentucky
1986.12
L2011.42.67
L2011.42.67
Attributed to Emma Bridges
(American, 1842-1888)
Cherry Trees, 1860-1870
Kentucky, probably Henderson County
Attributed to Emma Bridges
(American, 1842-1888)
Cherry Trees, 1860-1870
Cotton, silk, silk velvet
Kentucky, probably Henderson County
104 x 84 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2011.42.67

This quilt has a history of ownership in Jefferson County, Kentucky, where it once belonged to Charles (1839-1912) and Emma Bridges. The couple married in Henderson County, Kentucky (located in western Kentucky along the Kentucky-Indiana border), in 1866 and were soon living in Louisville. One thus assumes that Emma Bridges probably made the quilt, perhaps around the time of either her first wedding in 1860 (to Charles Littell in Henderson County) or her later wedding to Charles Bridges. Alternately, the quilt may have been a gift to Emma.

This quilt shares strikingly similar design features with another quilt in this exhibition. It was made around 1860 in Logan County, Kentucky, by Virginia Ivey. There doesn't seem to be any family connection between Virginia Ivey and Emma Bridges, but perhaps there is some yet-to-be-discovered connection between the two women and their quilts.
Attributed to Emma Bridges
(American, 1842-1888)
Cherry Trees, 1860-1870
Kentucky, probably Henderson County
L2011.42.67
L2010.42.22
L2010.42.22
Stars, about 1866
Probably Bowling Green, Kentucky
Stars, about 1866
Cottons
Probably Bowling Green, Kentucky
87 x 65 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.22

This quilt's maker emphasized the linear quality of the pattern by incorporating pinstriped fabric into the diagonals that divide the stars. Careful attention was paid to keeping the pattern precisely pieced and symmetrical. The same care was given to its quilting.
Stars, about 1866
Probably Bowling Green, Kentucky
L2010.42.22
L2010.42.29
L2010.42.29
Stars and Double Chain, about 1890
Cottons
Probably Kentucky
Stars and Double Chain, about 1890
Cottons
Probably Kentucky
70 x 59 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.29

During the late nineteenth century, many quilt designs became increasingly complex, whether in their patterns, in the number of fabric pieces required, or a combination of the two. The maker of this quilt used hundreds upon hundreds of postage-stamp sized pieces of fabric. As such, the quilt is not only a remarkable example of quilt making, but an interesting index of some of the printed cotton fabrics available at the end of the nineteenth century.
Stars and Double Chain, about 1890
Cottons
Probably Kentucky
L2010.42.29
L2010.42.46
L2010.42.46
Flossie Sheriff McClure
(American, born 1892)
Log Cabin--Barn Raising Variation, 1910-1915
Lexington, Kentucky
Flossie Sheriff McClure
(American, born 1892)
Log Cabin--Barn Raising Variation, 1910-1915
Cottons, wools and silks
Lexington, Kentucky
75-1/2 x 74 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.46

This quilt's history indicates that it was made by Flossie (Florence) McClure and her mother, Sallie, between 1910 and 1915. They chose one of the many variations of the Log Cabin pattern. Log Cabin quilts consist of square blocks, each pieced together from rectilinear strips of fabric. Manipulating the strips' arrangement, their colors, their shades, or some combination of the three produces different optical effects. The exact origins of the Log Cabin concept remain uncertain. The United States? Britain? Whatever the source, Log Cabin patterns became popular in the United States during the late nineteenth century and remain popular among quilters still today.
Flossie Sheriff McClure
(American, born 1892)
Log Cabin--Barn Raising Variation, 1910-1915
Lexington, Kentucky
L2010.42.46
L2010.42.11
L2010.42.11
Delectable Mountains, about 1920
Kentucky
Delectable Mountains, about 1920
Cottons
Kentucky
81 x 69 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.11


Rather than dividing the quilt's surface into a flat-looking grid, patterns like Delectable Mountains use concentric rectangles to create three dimensional effects. The pattern's name comes from the English author John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, which was first published in 1678. Bunyan's religious allegory depicts the pilgrimage towards salvation. His "delectable mountains" offer refuge and refreshment to the pilgrims.
Delectable Mountains, about 1920
Kentucky
L2010.42.11
L2010.42.30
L2010.42.30
House or Schoolhouse, about 1920
Probably Kentucky
House or Schoolhouse, about 1920
Cottons
Probably Kentucky
78 x 71 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.30

The House or Schoolhouse pattern, popular beginning in the later nineteenth century, typically consisted of a grid of smaller, identical houses rather than the large, central image seen here. The quilt's subject evokes idealized memories: the old home place, school days. Quilts, from their design to their production to their veneration by later generations, are freighted with memories, both real and ideal.
House or Schoolhouse, about 1920
Probably Kentucky
L2010.42.30
L2010.42.16
L2010.42.16
New York Beauty, about 1940
Probably Louisville, Kentucky
New York Beauty, about 1940
Cottons
Probably Louisville, Kentucky
92 x 80 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.16

Known today as New York Beauty, this pattern went by the name Crown of Thorns (and others) during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Versions from the mid-nineteenth century often used a white ground. The anonymous maker of this example, however, embraced a bold color combination, one that echoes the popular tastes of the 1930s and early 1940s.
New York Beauty, about 1940
Probably Louisville, Kentucky
L2010.42.16
L2010.42.19
L2010.42.19
Chieftain, about 1940
Probably Kentucky
Chieftain, about 1940
Cottons
Probably Kentucky
78 x 82 in.
Collection of Eleanor Bingham Miller L2010.42.19

As more and more tourists visited the American Southwest by rail, Native American arts from the region began to influence popular culture--quilts included. This quilt's aptly named Chieftain pattern, published in newspapers in the 1930s, combines motifs and colors reminiscent of Native American blankets from the Southwest even though it was probably made in Kentucky.
Chieftain, about 1940
Probably Kentucky
L2010.42.19


 
 
 


Copyright 2013
/ FAQ / Contact Us
2035 South Third Street Louisville, Kentucky 40208
502.634.2700 speedmuseum.org