The appearance of a Strip quilt is usually very like that of a wholecloth quilt, even though it is technically pieced. Like wholecloth quilts, the makers of Strip quilts like this example and another in the collection (1971.180.125) were concerned with showing off the large pieces of fancy fabric with which the quilts are made, rather than calling attention to an intricately pieced design. While some of the pieces of fabrics in the two quilts were probably left-overs from other home-furnishing projects, others, such as the wide strip with bowls of fruit at the center of this example, may have been purchased specifically with the quilt in mind. All these fabrics have large-scale patterns that would not have been as visually effective if the quilt maker had chosen to cut them into small pieces to be stitched into an ordinary pieced quilt.
This Strip quilt was probably made about fifteen or twenty years later than Strip quilt 1971.180.125, and its fabrics are much more brightly colored and fanciful. Fabric (and wallpaper) designers of the mid-nineteenth century enjoyed realistic trompe l'oeil effects, as can clearly be seen from this quilt. The white ceramic bowls laden with fruit and a single pink rose have the same luscious quality as the hand-colored floral prints of the period. The other fabrics make little sense with the center panel, which is immediately surrounded by strips of fabric showing small peacocks on pedestals. The presence of peacocks speaks to the century-long popularity of peacocks as subjects for textile design. The outermost, incomplete stripes of fabric contain two different imported English cottons printed with Gothic window tracery. One of these fabrics includes a flag showing the British Royal Standard as it appeared between 1814 and 1837. When Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, the standard was changed, and no longer included the Hanoverian Crown in the center as seen here. This helps us date this particular fabric to before 1838. The Gothic Revival style was popular in England beginning in the late years of the eighteenth century, but it didn't begin to seriously influence American architectural design until the 1830s. The style never gained wide acceptance in the domestic sphere, so furnishing fabrics like these are unusual. They may have been considered quite special even in this quilt maker's day. She decided to include them in spite of the fact that she didn't have enough fabric to make complete top-to-bottom Gothic tracery strips and had to piece in more of the peacock fabric at the quilt's top edge.
[Peck 2015; adapted from Amelia Peck, "American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2007]