The front and back of this whole-cloth quilt are constructed of two complete width and one cut-width lengths of fabric seamed at their selvedges. The front is a multicolored roller-printed cotton showing medallions with trompe-l'oeil relief busts of George Washington. Each medallion is topped with an eagle and surrounded with a wreath of flowers. The back is of a dark brown calico with a lozenge design in brown and red. The piece is fan quilted overall.
George Washington's image appeared on many textiles, the earliest being eighteenth-century copperplate-printed fabrics. The craze for Washington's image may have reached its height in 1876, when the nation celebrated its Centennial. This quilt's cotton fabric, roller printed with trompe l'oeil relief busts of the Father of Our Country, was most likely printed in America for the Centennial. (For another example of Centennial fabric depicting Washington, see 48.158.8). Although the quilt’s fabric has been published as dating from about 1850, the subject matter, the inscription noting "WASHINGTON and INDEPENDENCE/ 4th July 1776," and the fact that our quilt is backed with a calico of the browns and reds that seemed so overwhelmingly popular in the 1870s, all make us believe that the fabric, and therefore the quilt, can be dated to about 1876. Another version of the same design also thought to be from about 1876 exists in the J. Doyle Dewitt Collection of the University of Hartford. That piece of fabric is linen, printed in red, white, and blue. The inscription, which differs slightly from ours, reads: "Union/ Independence/4 July 1776". The invocation of Union surely means that the fabric had to have been designed at some point after the beginning of the Civil War. [Peck 2015; adapted from Amelia Peck, "American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2007]
Inscription: printed in GW medallion: WASHINGTON and INDEPENDENCE / 4th July 1776