This is a selection of quilts from an exhibition held at the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum during the spring of 1995. While the exhibition displayed quilts from the nineteenth century through the present day, we are only including quilts from the mid-1800s.
Introduction to the Exhibition (from the gallery guide)
An exhibition organized by the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum, Staunton, Virginia.
This exhibition marks the first organized display of antebellum quilts from the upper Shenandoah Valley which includes Augusta, Rockbridge, and Rockingham counties. Of the 47 quilts in the exhibition, 26 were made between 1840 and 1860. On loan from both public and private collections, many have never before been publicly displayed.
These quilts are the material histories of the women who made them--histories written with thread and often signed in ink. Their survival is a testament to the value placed on them by their makers and recipients. Far from being utilitarian and anonymous, these quilts were made to convey women’s sentiments, record the important events of their lives, and display their needle skills and material well being.
This exhibition is a first step in the documentation and analysis of the quilt styles, patterns, materials, and techniques used by the women in this region prior to the Civil War. Because the valley was an important migration route in the nineteenth century, this information is significant for the national study of quilts and their histories. At the same time, it reveals local traditions and preferences, leading to a better understanding of not only the aesthetic interests of the area, but the region’s social and cultural history as well.
As a social and historical survey, Material Histories, Continuous Threads reveals the importance of quilts in the upper Shenandoah Valley, not only as visually rich products of English and Scots-Irish quilting traditions that blended in the eighteenth century in the upper Delaware Valley with the stylized motifs of German design, but also as documents of women’s lives in this three-county region, providing clues to a better understanding of our past and present.
Patricia A. Hobbs