Quilt, Album pattern

Members of the Brown and Turner families

Not on view

The Museum was given this lively Baltimore quilt in 1988. It is a true Album quilt, since almost every block is signed and dated by a different person, unlike our other, more sophisticated Baltimore quilt (1974.24) which is thought to be the work of a single maker. Most of this Album quilt's blocks were appliquéd by members of the Brown and Turner families. Some of the blocks are decorated with motifs that are typically found only on Baltimore quilts, such as the central eagle and flag, while other designs, such as those that employ the cut-paper technique, can be seen on Album quilts from all regions of the country.

A bequest from Margaret Brown Davis Potvin (1897-1987), the quilt entered the Museum’s collection with almost no known history. The only information came from the donor, who mentioned to the executor of her will that her grandmother Margaret Brown Turner Schenck made the quilt. After much research, we were able to ascertain why it was made and to identify almost all of the people who contributed blocks.

By counting back two generational spans of about twenty-five years each, we reached the conclusion that Schenck must have been born around 1850. Because most of the blocks were dated between 1846 and 1852, she would have been too young to be the quilt's maker, and it was therefore surmised that Mrs. Potvin's great-grandmother must have made the quilt. Having noted the Brown family's tradition of naming their girls Margaret (Mrs. Potvin's mother was also named Margaret), we assumed that the Margaret L. Brown who signed the quilt (block IB) must have been Mrs. Potvin's great-grandmother. The only man's name on the quilt was Francis Turner (1816-1858; block 3B), and since we knew that Mrs. Potvin's grandmother's last name was Turner, we assumed that Margaret L. Brown married Francis Turner around the time the quilt was made and that the quilt blocks were given to her as engagement presents.

Two facts shattered this theory. First, a closer examination of the quilt revealed that the blocks were attached to the sashing by machine stitching. Although invented in the 1840s, sewing machines were not widely available before the 1860s. Therefore, it did seem more likely that Mrs. Potvin's grandmother Margaret Brown Turner Schenck had actually made the quilt (i.e., joined the blocks and quilted the layers together). Further genealogical research revealed that Francis Turner had married Mary Brown (1818-1871), not Margaret L. Brown, on November 14, 1839. Mary Brown Turner (block 2E) was Margaret Potvin's great-grandmother. The birth date of Margaret Brown Turner Schenck was subsequently found to be July 31, 1847, and we now theorize that the quilt blocks were given to Mary Brown Turner by her friends and family in celebration of the coming birth of her child. For some reason, she never joined the blocks together, and the daughter in whose honor the blocks were made completed the quilt perhaps twenty years later.

Quilt, Album pattern, Members of the Brown and Turner families, Cotton, American

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