Have You Seen This Intricate Patchwork Heirloom Quilt?

In 1881 New Hampshire held its 26th Annual State Fair in Laconia, New Hampshire. The fair had not been held in Laconia since 1852.

The New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette devoted an entire page to reporting the handicrafts, food, animals and other award-winning items that were proudly displayed during this three-day event.

According to the newspaper report:

The fair of last week, although in many respects not meeting the expectations of all, was an unqualified success as far as attendance and receipts were concerned.

In reading over the description of the items on display, this brief mention of a quilt caught my eye:

Miss Jennie M. Huse a patchwork quilt of handsome pattern containing 10,368 pieces.

article about Jennie Huse and her quilt, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette newspaper article 29 September 1881

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, New Hampshire), 29 September 1881, page 4

Remarkable patchwork – 10,368 pieces!

My wife and I have old heirloom quilts that have been passed down in our family, safely tucked away in the family cedar chest.

I wonder if Jennie Huse’s quilt was passed down in her family?

A quick check of her family history shows that while she never married, several of her siblings did.

screenshot of records from FamilySearch about the Huse family

Source: FamilySearch

Speaking of her family, both her father Thomas Muzzey Huse (1812-1877) and her brother David Scobey Huse (1844-1863) served in the Civil War. Her brother died during the war in Mound City, Illinois.

Genealogy Tip: Be sure to look for family photos using the Internet Archive Book Images tool. I wrote about this website before. See: Top Genealogy Websites Update: Internet Archive Book Images + Flickr

screenshot of the website Internet Archive Book Images

Source: Internet Archive Book Images

This handy site quickly lets you find photographs that were printed in the millions of books that they have digitized and put online.

In this example, you can see that this site quickly identified photographs of both Jennie’s father and her brother. Here’s an entry on her father:

screenshot from the website Internet Archive Book Images showing a photo of Thomas Huse

Source: Internet Archive Book Images

Here’s an entry on her brother:

screenshot from the website Internet Archive Book Images showing a photo of David Huse

Source: Internet Archive Book Images

Are you related to Jane “Jennie” Muzzey Huse?
Do you know where her intricate quilt is now?
If so, have you counted the pieces in her patchwork quilt? Does it really contain 10,368 pieces?

Please let us know in the comments section.

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Quilting & Genealogy: Treasured Family Heirlooms

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary writes about a family treasure of particular interest to genealogists: heirloom quilts.

Heirloom quilts and coverlets are comfort for the soul. They tell many a tale of family history, so it comes as no surprise that genealogists and quilting go hand in hand.

Perhaps an heirloom quilt has passed down through your family, as some have in mine.

Emalena’s Quilt

One such quilt in my home was made by Emalena, our family baby sitter.

She was a single woman who remained single until late in life. She treated us like her own children, and gave us many of her beautiful quilts. This one, fashioned in the traditional wedding ring pattern, became a present for my parents.

photo of a family quilt from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

Photo: family quilt from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

One has to assume she made a quilt for the kind widower she married. Perhaps one of her quilts “sealed the deal” with the marriage proposal. We certainly hope so!

Jacquard Coverlets

Two family treasures that came through my family were matching Jacquard coverlets.

Notice that this one, which belongs to my aunt, has the name Sophronia W. Seymour inscribed on it, along with the year 1834. Sophronia was my second great grandmother, and in 1834 would have been 20. Perhaps it was part of her trousseau, an old tradition in which items were collected for a girl to take into her marriage.

photo of a family coverlet from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

Photo: family coverlet from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

For many years, I thought that a family member had been a talented weaver – but now I know from historical research that this was probably not the case. Around 1820, a special loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard which truly revolutionized the world of weaving.

article about the Jacquard loom, Evening Post newspaper article 29 October 1833

Evening Post (New York, New York), 29 October 1833, page 2

As Jacquard’s loom was programmable, it was much like an early computer. Intricate fabric patterns were made much quicker than before, and often in a double weave motif. The coverlet above, and another matching eagle and heart patterned example that also came through the family, are black on white on one side, and white on black on the other.

Not every quilt or coverlet contains names and dates – but when they do, they are wonderful genealogical gems (click this link for examples.)

Jacquard died in 1834, and it is a shame that so many people today do not realize the impact his loom had on the world.

obituary for Joseph Jacquard, Daily Atlas newspaper article 29 October 1834

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 October 1834, page 2

Textile Research

Newspapers offer a fine opportunity to research heirloom quilts and coverlets. Many of the newspaper articles are rich with detail. Not only can they help you date your treasures, but you can even find patterns to help you make your own family heirlooms.

One of the earliest newspaper reports that I could find regarding a quilt dates to 1752.

Margaret Rogers, a young girl apprenticed to Alice Dodd of Philadelphia, ran away. The runaway ad detailed Margaret’s garments, along with a light blue homespun quilt that she took with her.

runaway ad for apprentice Margaret Rogers, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 12 October 1752

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 12 October 1752, page 7

Looking through 19th century newspapers you’ll find various quilting and sewing advertisements, some even detailing the machines our ancestors used.

ad for sewing machines, New Orleans Tribune newspaper advertisement 23 October 1866

New Orleans Tribune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 October 1866, page 3

By the 20th century, quilting had become all the rage. Quilting patterns appeared in newspaper articles, including this pretty Star Center Quilt block “stolen” from a neighbor’s laundry line. News articles frequently detailed color patterns and tips to assemble the quilts. For this one, red, white and blue were suggested:

Any house w[h]ere there are many children would be apt to furnish easily the blues and whites, and even if the red had to be bought for the purpose the cost would be very slight.

quilt block pattern for the Star Center Quilt, Broad Ax newspaper article 18 July 1903

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 18 July 1903, page 3

A favorite of modern quilters are patterns, of which there is no shortage in newspapers. Many of the famous Laura Wheeler designs were published, including this basket applique quilt design from 1936.

quilt patterns by Laura Wheeler, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 15 January 1936

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 15 January 1936, page 3

This 1937 newspaper article detailed the activities of Miss Minnie Eldridge, a home demonstration agent from Texas. She educated various Louisiana farm women on how to fashion quilts and taught them about the flower pot pattern fashionable among the mountaineers of Tennessee.

article about quilting, State Times Advocate newspaper article 11 August 1937

State Times Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 11 August 1937, page 13

Quilting is no lost art in Louisiana, not even a decadent one, if the enthusiasm and interest registered by hundreds of farm women at a quilting lecture Wednesday morning may serve as a basis for determining the quilting status in the state.

Other Resources for Quilting Examples

Don’t forget to explore social media, and in particular Pinterest, for quilting examples. A favorite of mine is the Library of Congress, where I found this lovely picture of quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

photo of Jorena Pettway sewing a quilt, Gees Bend, Alabama, c. 1937

Photo: sewing a quilt, Gees Bend, Alabama, c. 1937. Shown are an unidentified girl, Jennie Pettway, and quilter Jorena Pettway. Credit: Arthur Rothstein; Library of Congress.

Hope this inspires you to research your textiles, quilts and coverlets in newspapers. Be sure to share your finds in the comments.

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Newspaper Sewing & Crafting Patterns and Our Crafty Ancestors

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find the quilt, clothing, craft and other patterns newspapers offered our ancestors for home projects.

We often think of the newspaper as a place to get news. But the newspaper offered so much more to the community it served. Newspapers were an important avenue of entertainment for generations of our families, and appealing to an entire family of readers helped ensure the ongoing success of the newspaper. In some cases the newspaper sold or gave away products, and provided readers a reason to keep the newspaper long after the news stories were old and dated.

Previously on the GenealogyBank Blog, I’ve written articles about the recipes and cookbooks printed by newspapers. Another way the newspaper appealed to women readers and subscribers was by offering sewing and crafting patterns. Patterns were provided for free, printed right in the newspaper, or offered for a minimal cost through mail-order.

Sewing Patterns Used for Newspaper Marketing

There’s no doubt that offering sewing patterns appealed to our women ancestors. The advertisement below from a 1914 newspaper is meant to flatter female readers – and the over-exaggeration of its text demonstrates that print advertising hasn’t changed much over the years. This newspaper advertisement proclaims:

Our announcement of the Big Gift to Women Readers has already made a stir. Trust the women in any community to recognize a real opportunity. They know that Embroidery Transfer Patterns cost at least ten cents each and every woman knows that a chance to secure 165 of the latest and most select patterns practically for nothing is a real opportunity. To have at hand this wonderful and complete outfit of embroidery patterns will contribute much to the happiness in the home.

embroidery patterns, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 24 April 1914

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 24 April 1914, page 12

At the bottom of the ad, under the heading “How to Secure Your Gifts,” instructions are given making it clear why this embroidery pattern give-away was such a clever promotion for the Macon Telegraph newspaper:

Bring to this office six of the Ideal Art Pattern Coupons. (One coupon is printed each day on another page of this paper.) You must bring six of different dates (they need not be consecutive) together with the small expense items amounting to 68 cents. The 68 cents is merely to cover cost of packing and shipping the package.

That’s just one example of sewing patterns provided by newspapers to their readers. Other examples include everything from needle arts and quilting, to clothing and crafts. While pattern companies advertised their latest offerings in newspapers, newspapers themselves also offered patterns for sale.

Bible History Quilt

One type of pattern offered by newspapers was for quilt blocks. A quilt containing numerous blocks ensured that readers would want to purchase subsequent newspapers to get each pattern. And if a reader missed a week? She could then order that quilting block pattern from the newspaper for a small fee – in the case of the pattern below, 10 cents each. The following example is the Bible History Quilt, a design by prolific quilt pattern designer Ruby McKim which included 24 blocks, each one published by the newspaper on consecutive Sundays.

This news article shows a crude drawing of what the finished Bible quilt would look like, and includes some general directions about how to transfer the pattern to blocks of fabric.

quilt block patterns for the Bible History Quilt, Plain Dealer newspaper article 9 October 1927

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 9 October 1927, page 61

Block 1 of this quilt, with its scroll design and the words “God, Heavens, Earth, Air, Water, Life,” symbolized the creation story in the book of Genesis. Each Sunday a new block was introduced that symbolized a well-known Bible story and characters.

quilt block pattern for the Bible History Quilt, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 16 October 1927

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 16 October 1927, page 19

Here’s a picture of a Bible History Quilt showing the first block.

photo of a quilt block from the Bible History Quilt

Photo: quilt block from the author’s collection. Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Audubon Bird Quilt

Another example of a quilt block series is the Audubon Bird Quilt. Here is block #10 from that series.

quilt block pattern for the Audubon Bird Quilt showing an oriole, Plain Dealer newspaper article 9 December 1928

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 9 December 1928, page 58

Clothing Patterns

Patterns for crafts and the decorative arts were plentiful in the newspaper, but they didn’t represent the only kind of pattern available. Practical clothing patterns for your family could be ordered from the newspaper as well. These patterns differ from the quilt patterns mentioned above (which were actually printed in the newspaper and didn’t have to be ordered). The clothing patterns were advertised in the newspaper for purchase, and then mailed to the reader.

This sewing pattern, advertised under the heading “Today’s Pattern,” is for overalls and a playsuit.

sewing patterns for overalls and a playsuit, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 10 February 1944

Macon Telegraph (Macon Georgia), 10 February 1944, page 16

In some cases multiple clothing patterns can be found together, like this example from 1946 that has a slim-looking “smart-house frock” to sew and mittens to knit, tucked in between articles and the comics section.

sewing patterns for a dress and mittens, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 31 October 1946

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 31 October 1946, page 16

While the quilt patterns shown above were offered for free, most newspaper patterns were for sale and as such they read like an advertisement. Newspapers did what they could to market these patterns for sale to their readers. Good examples of their marketing prowess are this World War II-era summer dress pattern and a “colorful new Pattern Book” for 10 cents that is touted with this advertising copy:

It’s filled with simple, fabric-saving designs for active service, for ‘on leave’ glamor, for the home front.

dress pattern, Morning Olympian newspaper article 2 June 1942

Morning Olympian (Olympia, Washington), 2 June 1942, page 2

Home Décor, Memorials & More

Newspaper patterns weren’t just limited to sewing or needlework. Craft patterns were also offered, which differed depending on the time of the year and what was happening in the world. During World War II, for example, these patriotic figures for outdoor memorials and lawn decorations were advertised for the “home craftsmen.”

craft patterns, Oregonian newspaper article 16 May 1943

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 16 May 1943, page 111

Did your ancestors purchase patterns from the newspaper? Do you have a family heirloom that was made from one of those patterns? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Women during World War II: Knitting & Sewing on the Home Front

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena writes about the knitting, sewing and quilting efforts of women on the home front during World War II to support the Red Cross and the war effort—and how local newspaper articles about these women provide good information for your family history searches.

Have you documented your family’s lives during World War II? With the upcoming 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day this Friday, it’s an important reminder to document those stories now before it’s too late. The Greatest Generation’s numbers are decreasing daily, memories are fading and family stories will soon be lost.

No doubt it’s important to research your military ancestors and what they were doing in the war to record your family history. Equally important is finding out about those that were left behind on the home front during wartime. Women, children and non-military men played important roles in the war by sacrificing through rationing of food and other material goods, working in industries that supported the war effort, taking over jobs for those who were fighting, and lending their time and talent to help those in need here and abroad.

Women filled many roles during World War II: they served in the military, they worked in industries like aircraft manufacturing and farming, and they also lent their skills to volunteer efforts. One such example is the sewing that was done for the Red Cross.

The American Red Cross, founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, coordinated various efforts during the World War II years that assisted service men and women, civilians, and war victims. They shipped supply packages and helped to ensure a blood supply for soldiers. (You can read more about the history of the American Red Cross on their website.) One way American women helped Red Cross efforts was through sewing and the raffling of finished projects to raise much-needed funds.

This knitting and sewing effort during World War II wasn’t a new idea. World War I saw women sewing and organizing groups that crafted materials to benefit soldiers and those who were victims of the war. Socks were knitted; pajamas, sheets and shirts were sewn; and quilts were pieced and quilted.

American women weren’t the only ones who sewed for the Red Cross. According to the book World War II Quilts by Sue Reich, Canadian women “began quiltmaking in support of the war in the late 1930s…Canada sent 25,000 quilts to Britain and Europe for the relief effort via the Red Cross.” She goes on to write that women attending Red Cross meetings presented a quilt block and a penny at each meeting, thus raising funds and creating quilts and blankets.*

Women’s benevolent sewing, knitting and quilting work was featured in their local newspapers. Meeting notices, project photos, and participants’ names were all documented for the community.

This newspaper article is about a Mexican woman in the United States who used her sewing skills to support her sons fighting in the U.S. Army.

Mexican Woman Makes, Sells Quilt to Aid Red Cross, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 12 February 1942

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 12 February 1942, page 9

The quilt Mrs. Maria Salazar made was originally going to be sold to finance her trip to Mexico to visit relatives, but she reconsidered and donated the money to support the efforts of the Red Cross and ultimately of her three sons fighting in the war. Her name, address and the names and ages of her sons are listed in the old newspaper article.

This historical newspaper article, also from Texas, details the amount of volunteer hours spent in the Red Cross Sewing Room. Products created included 446 woolen garments, 28 knitted garments and 2 quilts made by 616 women.

Red Cross Sewing Room Makes Fine Record, Richardson Echo newspaper article, 3 April 1942

Richardson Echo (Richardson, Texas), 3 April 1942, page 1

This Louisiana article makes note that a quilt was sent to the Red Cross by Mrs. Ada B. Brown and also lists the names of every woman in her sewing group.

A Lovely Quilt, State Times Advocate newspaper article 27 March 1942

State Times Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 27 March 1942, page 9

Military records are an important resource in researching your World War II military ancestors. To get a fuller picture of everyone’s involvement in the war effort, however, turn to newspapers—they are important in learning more about the local history of an area including the activities on the home front.


* Reich, Sue. World War II Quilts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub, 2010. Page 138.