John Hewson (American, born England, 17441821)
Cotton; 27 5/8 x 29 1/2 in. (70.2 x 74.9 cm)
Purchase, David S. and Elizabeth W. Quackenbush Gift, 2005 (2005.284)
John Hewson, the first important and well-documented textile printer in America, arrived in Philadelphia from London in September 1773 at the invitation of Benjamin Franklin. Trained to produce the highest quality block-printed textiles at Bromley Hall in London, Hewson set up a "Calicoe Printing Manufactory" almost immediately. He quickly gained fame for his flowered dress goods and printed coverlets, and for panels like this one. Though they may have been originally intended as handkerchiefs, many of the dozen or so that survive were used as center panels in quilts. These treasured high-style bedcovers usually have several wide borders of vibrant chintz, some with complex pieced or appliquéd areas. The center panels are known to be Hewson's work because one was included in a quilt made by his wife that descended through the family and is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The panels all show a graceful urn filled with flowers and surrounded by birds and butterflies. The fabric was printed in stages with several different blocks, and certain colors were hand painted.