Chintz Applique Quilt

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Pattern Names: Basket
Top By: MConnell, Ruth
Quilted By: McConnell, Ruth
Period: Pre-1799
Date: 1793
Location Made: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA) United States
Project Name: Michigan Quilt Project
Contributor: Michigan State University Museum, Western Pennsylvania Quilt Documentation Project
ID Number: WP.BVR.0187
Quilt Size: 111 3/4in x 103 1/4in
Fabrics: Cotton, Chintz, Glazed, Premium type, Solid/plain
Colors: Blue or Navy, Brown, Cream, Gold, Green, Pink, Red
Construction: Hand Piecing, Hand Applique, Some joints pieced, some applied on top.
Quilting Techniques: Hand quilting
Other Notes: In 1793, 35-year-old Ruth Hall McConnell created this exquisite quilt, assisted by her young cousins, Hannah and Mary Parry, who lived just around the corner from Ruth’s home at 66 Chestnut Street in a prosperous section of Philadelphia—a few short blocks from Independence Hall. The quilt’s flowers, birds, and decorative borders were cut from colorfully printed chintz fabric and sewn onto the background fabric. This highly-prized, imported cotton chintz was readily available in the fashionable port city of Philadelphia—especially to someone like Ruth, whose husband Matthew McConnell was a wealthy merchant and stockbroker. About the time that Ruth finished this quilt, a virulent Yellow Fever epidemic broke out in Philadelphia, spreading like wildfire. Between August and November 1793, 5,000 Philadelphians died—about a tenth of the population. Another 17,000 fled (including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and members of Congress). Any family with the means left the city. Matthew and Ruth McConnell and their sons 12-year-old Robert and 7-year-old Matthew, were among those who fled the epidemic. Ruth was pregnant. Her daughter Julia was born at Beverage’s Farm in the countryside outside of Philadelphia on September 10. Many years later, Ruth’s daughter, 55-year-old Julia McConnell Miles, wrote an inscription on the back of the quilt. Julia’s words read: “The work of my Mother Ruth McConnell & her cousins Hannah and Mary Parry in the year 1793 previous to my birth (September of that year) during yellow fever - Julia M. Miles May 14th 1849.” Julia clearly wanted to make sure that her mother’s name and the quilt’s story—including its ties to American history and her own birth—would not be lost to memory.
Inscription: Work of my mother, Ruth McConnell & her cousins, Hannah & Mary Parry in the year 1793 and previous to my birth (September of that year) during yellow fever. Julia M. Miles May 14, 1849
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