Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905)
ca. 1877
Made in North's Landing, Indiana, United States
Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace
54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983
Accession Number:
Not on view
The top of this quilt is composed of nine pieced blocks surrounded by a black plaid silk border with corner blocks of black moire. The backing is of a maroon satin filled with cotton and machine quilted in a shell pattern. The top is stitched to the backing at wide intervals. The Crazy patches and border are embroidered with both cotton thread and chenille. Some patches are decorated with paint as well as embroidery.
The beautifully designed Crazy Quilt illustrated here is exceptional for a number of reasons, the most important being that it is one of the few well-documented examples of a mourning quilt. It was made as a memorial after the death of twenty-year-old Grace Gertrude North (May 24, 1836-February 13, 1877), the only child of Tamar and Benjamin North of North's Landing, Indiana.
The quilt's maker, Tamar Horton Harris North, was born on January 23, 1833, near Quercus Grove, Indiana. On May 19, 1852, she married a well-to-do farmer, Benjamin F. North (February 7, 1830-January 22, 1877) and went to live with him at North's Landing on the Ohio River. Benjamin North was a well-to-do farmer. During the Civil War, Benjamin was a captain of Company C, 83rd Indiana Volunteers, Infantry. After serving for three years, he was discharged because of ill health and returned to North's Landing. We do not know what killed Benjamin and Grace within a month of each other in the winter of 1877.
We assume that Tamar North started work on the quilt soon after her daughter's death. If it was indeed made in 1877, this is a fairly early example of a Crazy quilt. It is pieced of silks and silk velvet, but there are also pieces of cotton and cotton lace. According to family history, North made the quilt from pieces of Grace's dresses, and the types of fabrics used and the unusual additions of bits of lace seem to bear this out. Many symbols of Grace's death ornament the quilt; her name is embroidered at the center, with a calla lily to each side, and in the block to the right, there is a patch inscribed with purple ink that records her birth and death dates. The same block includes a patch that is painted with an angel. Judging from surviving diaries, sewing seems to have been a great comfort to the nineteenth-century woman in times of sorrow.
[Peck 2015; adapted from Amelia Peck, "American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2007]
Inscription: inscribed in purple ink: Grace Gertrude North. / Born March 24, 1856 / Died Feb. 13, 1877.
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