Quilt History 
Today's Quilt Historians
Underground Railroad
Women at Work



New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Friendship Signature Quilt Top, 
Signed and Dated, 1910 - 1916
Do you recognize these names?
by Kimberly Wulfert  

If you recognize a name or date and place on the list, please contact me with your input. Perhaps together we can weave the history of this signature top and find out how they put the fabric in their typewriter and why! Most of the signers, both men and women, are from New England states.

Overall Description of the Top

There are 36 blocks measuring 10"x10", in a pattern called Old Italian Block by Brackman, (Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, #2881, by Nancy Cabot) It is commonly used for signature quilts, and is sometimes called Railroad Crossing. Each block is signed using a wide variety of methods, in the center square. Most are dated November 12, 1913, but range from 1910 to 1916. Most of the blocks are hand sewn. The majority of fabrics look new, with starch or sizing on some. Only one fabric repeats, and is used within the same family. This suggests that the fabric and block was made and signed by the signer, then sent to one woman, who used a sewing machine to complete the quilt top. Her sewing skills indicate that she was not use to using her machines, there are some tucks and loose threads here and there. The names are signed in different directions, indicating they signed them before sending them to her. The fabrics are common early 20th century prints made or sold in America.

The sashing is a man's striped shirting, which has multiple thin black lines, in two different widths on white. It runs horizontal and vertical at 3"- 3.25" wide. It is attached by machine. It does not form an outside border, there is no border there.

Click to enlarge.
Overall, it makes a masculine impression, with a majority of men's shirtings, textured and printed, chambrays and woven checks. Four red blocks are placed in the center, with blue or black strips of blocks running vertically on either side of center. The outer vertical strips of blocks are made in various shades of tans and grays, and there are two brown prints, dress prints most likely.

The condition overall is good. It does not appear to have been used or backed. Threads from sewing the sashing on by machine have not been cut off, and are mainly on the back. Four of the blocks are damaged: two have been chewed probably by a mouse along the bottom edge (R1, #2) and at the top of that row, R6, #2, indicating it was folded when this happened; R5, #6 is signed with a typewriter and the letters are faded, some are nearly gone; and R1, #1 appears to have a greasy and dirty substance on it's back side, which shows to a high degree on the surface of the white square.

The Uniqueness of this Quilt Top 

Multiple methods of signature signing on one quilt  are unusual to find. This quilt is a minefield looking at it from that perspective, embroidery, different types of inks, stamps, and pencil. The penciled blocks were probably intended to be embroidered over. Even more unusual is that some of these names have been signed by a typewriter. This article will describe each block separately for the signing method  used, where the maker lived and the fabrics each chose. Perhaps the reason for this friendship quilt will emerge, as there is not a special or central block with a description or label to tell its story.

Block Signatures and Descriptions
The inscription and punctuation is copied exactly as it is written on the block, then the method used to write it, a description of the fabric it's written on, then the fabric cross, then the background triangles. Some include method of construction.   

Row 1 is the bottom row. The left block starts the list. There are 6 rows of 6 blocks.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge.

L.C. Carleton Meriden Conn. Nov. 12 -1913, Pencil in script on textured white on white shirting (the dirty piece in the quilt, oil?) Blue and white chambray stripe; small black motif on white shirting; by machine

typed sig Carrie Ainsworth 1913.jpg (111046 bytes)Carrie Ainsworth, Westfield, Massachusetts. November 12, 1913. (Signed in same type on 2 blocks) Typewriter written with aniline-purple ink, on plain white cloth, possibly broadcloth. Indigo, chrome orange and white print of tiny flowers and pin dots, synthetic indigo, printed not discharged; black on white grid formed by 1/8" squares printed on. There are two mouse bites along the bottom edge of this block only, sewn by hand

Mr. R. B. Corbatt, Holyoke, Mass. Nov. 12. 1913. (see R1, #6, and row 6, #1)
Brown fountain pen ink, feathered out on the fibers, in script, on polished white cotton
Tiny woven black and white check; textured shirting of thin ecru stripe on white; by hand

William H. Pool Springfield. Mass. Nov. 12, 1913. (Winnifred Pool row 5,#1). Embroidered with dark Turkey red floss, short stem stitches form printing, on plain white Gray, in 3 shades on white forms a medium-scale circular and polka dot print; 2 black motifs on white shirting; by hand

Cleon E. Sherman, Jr., West Springfield, Massachusetts, November 12, 1913. 
(Signed in type on 2 blocks , see R2,#5) Typewritten on plain white block, same fabric as in Row 1, #2; indigo (synthetic) white prints of dots and cheerios (not discharged) twill fabric; blue textured stripe on white shirting; by hand; seams pressed open, like garments

Mr. F. (or L.) H. Corbatt, Holyoke, Mass. Nov. 12.1913. (same pen & writer as R1,#3)
See Row 1, #3 for signage info and fabric; a novelty woven black and white check, with green embroidery floss woven by machine to form a pattern about 2" long x 1". The light green floss is woven to fill in the white squares and go under the black ones; same ecru striped shirting fabric as Row 1, #3; by hand, seams overlap stitched to prevent fraying

Row 2

Clara K. Swift Springfield Mass Nov. 12, 1913 (see R1,#4)
Hand embroidered with TR floss, plain white, same as R1,#4; Shaker gray coloring, paisley in black and white on gray ground, black daisies and sprigs cotton print; medium blue on white grid and pin dot print, very detailed, cotton, sewn by hand

Ellen Sowell Amherst Mass Black ink, in script, on a heavier white cotton; Indigo (synthetic) with white printed small polka dots set apart, spaced evenly; pink-red chambray; by machine

Emma G (-?) Aiken Springfield, Mass. No date (Mr. Aiken in row 3, #3)
Stamped in brown and black ink, two different stamps were used, the name in brown and it may be handwritten, and the location in black, on polished cotton with uneven threads, not like chintz. Garibaldi red and pink floral print, in medium scale, on black cotton with a conversation print of tiny red and black anchors lined up by color in rows forming stripes on white ground; by machine

Eugene G. Haley Philadelphia Pa Nov. 12 1913
Embroidered in dark Turkey red floss in script of stem stitches, on plain white cotton, Small woven plaid of red and blue on white made of fine thread, shirting; textured woven white cotton with printed tiny red dots evenly spaced; by hand

Cleon E. Sherman, West Springfield, Massachusetts, November 12, 1913. (Signed in type on 2 blocks, see R2, #5) By typewriter, very faded, same description as R1, #2 & #5; gray chambray; textured shirting of gray stripes on white and white on white textured stripes too, by hand; seams pressed open

Bertha M. Dame, Springfield Mass. Sept. 20, 1910 (last numeral is smeared, hard to determine; Black ink, script, some feathering on plain white sheeting fabric; gray in light and medium stripes printed on to cotton; a diaper of tiny black motifs and dots on white, could be a shirting; by machine

Row 3, #1 left side

ink sig 2 Laura Boytnon 1913-large.jpg (321455 bytes)Laura C. Boynton Pelham Mass Nov 12 1913 (the T could be a different letter)
Black Ink in script on plain white cotton; madder dyed rust with black cheerios and white stars print; vermiculite worm pattern in gray on white with black pin dots forming trail along the vermiculite; by hand

Nov. 12. 1913 Mr. + Mrs. C. K. Healey Atlantic City N.J. (Mercer Healy in row 4, #4) Pencil script on a white voile or organza type fabric, sheer but tight weave; Indigo (synthetic) with white motif with a fancy stripe printed on; delicate dress print of tiny flower bud with stem and leaf in red on white cotton; by hand
A.O. (?) Aiken Springfield, Mass (Emma Aiken in row 2, #3)
Black ink script stamp, City and state stamp is the same as Aiken block R2, #3,and placed beneath it, but cotton it is printed on is different; double pink with darker pink springs and white dots printed on; woven plaid, tiny grid in beige and light blue; by hand

Lizzie Stedman Holyoke Mass. Nov. 12. 1913.
Black ink script on a slightly heavier cotton; double pink chambray, of dk. Pink on bubble-gum pink ground; light blue 1" grid woven on white cotton made to look like the stem or outline stitch; by machine

Bertha M. Dame Springfield Mass. Nov. 12. 1913 Same name, different date R2,#6 Black ink script, looks completely different than the other block's penmanship indicating they were not written by the same person, written on a medium weight white cotton; medium blue linen solid; by machine, seams pressed open

Silas Eaton Holyoke Mass. 1913
Embroidered with Turkey red floss in script in outline stitch, on a slightly used looking white cotton; medium gray cotton satine solid; textured-look (faux texture) cotton shirting print in blue and black fancy stripes

Row 4, #1 left

F. W. Smith. Rutland, VT. Nov. 12, 1913 Written so straight, he probably used a line. Black ink script on white cotton; gray chambray with a thin white strip and motif set wide apart, a shirt fabric; blue on white textured shirting, fancy; by machine, seams pressed open (could this be the son or father of Frank Smith, Row 4,#6?)

Harold E. Frisbie Springfield Mass Nov. 12, 1913
Embroidered with Turley red floss in print, stem stitch on white cotton; white on black print, rows of dots with pansy type flower scattered around; black on white shirting with similar lines of dots and an occasional hexagon shape motif; by hand

Helen B. Smith. Rutland, VT. Nov. 12, 1913 (3 other Smiths from Rutland in this row) Black ink script with same pen on same fabric as #1 block, different handwriting, but used a line; dark red solid cotton, broadcloth?; black on white shirting print stripe, feminine feel; by machine seams pressed open

pencil sig Mercer Healy 1919-large.JPG (105020 bytes)Nov. 12. 1913 Mercer E. Healey Atlantic City N.J. (same penmanship as R3, #2)
Pencil script on a voile or organza white cotton; medium red solid cotton; thin black lines set far apart on white cotton ground, some spatter stain (blood ?) on one triangle, by hand, seams pressed open

Myra A. Smith. Rutland, VT. Nov. 12, 1913 (Same pen and cotton as R4, #1&3)
Black ink script on white cotton, used a line; very dark indigo solid cotton; rayon crepe, (maybe a blend with cotton?) white with a black dash of thread, all in a texture of crepe; by machine, seams pressed open

Frank W. Smith, Rutland, VT. October 9, 1913 (Same pen and cotton as the 3 above). Same fabrics and making as F. W. Smith block in R4, #1. perhaps it's father and son?

Row 5, #1 left

Winnifred Pool Springfield Mass Nov. 12, 1913. (Wm Pool row 1 ,#4 , in same style) Hand embroidered TR floss, white plain cotton, tan grd. With raised blue and white variegated thin strips and thin blue stripes, geometric basket weave print in blue on white.

Mildred A. Stedman. Holyoke, Mass. Nov. 12, 1913. A pen resembling the look of a very thin felt tip marker is used to print the name in black on a white plain cotton square. The 2 in 12 is illegible due to a heavy touch. Indigo blue, looks synthetic, with a large white paisley and white dot for the print, pink and white woven gingham.

Irma M. Taylor. Westfield Mass. Sept. 20, 1916. Black ink by hand on white cotton square. Geometric brown on white men's print for pjs or shirt with a black on white dress print or shirting.

Mary A. Cody Holyoke Mass. 1913 Hand embroidered in TR floss in her penmanship on a plain white square. Large scale cotton sateen furnishing print, green ground, white, pink and purple print, with a tiny and delicate black on white shirting neat print.

Carrie Ainsworth, Westfield, Massachusetts November 12, 1913 (signed 2 blocks with type, row 1, #2) All typewritten in black on natural muslin square. Cadet blue ground with a white cheerio motif, and a black on white plain printed check of thin even lines.

Miss Edith G. Sherman
, West Springfield, Massachusetts, November 12, 1913. (Mrs. Nellie Sherman row 6 #2, also typed)
All typewritten, some is very faded, on white plain cotton square. Man's larger check shirt, blues and gold on white, with a man's textured shirting of white on white stripes with an occasional light green stripe.

Row 6, #1 left, top row of quilt top

Mrs. R. B. Corbatt, Holyoke, Mass. Nov. 12, 1913. (Other Corbatt's in row 1, #3 & #6) Black inked signature on plain white square. Black sprig print on white, with thin stripes of beige and white textured shirting.

typed sig Nellie J Sherman.jpg (329946 bytes)Mrs. Nellie J. Sherman, West Springfield, Massachusetts, November 12, 1913. (Mrs. Edith Sherman row 5, #6, also typed)
All typewritten on plain white square. Blue cambric with thin white stipe with blue and gray on white textured shirting.

EmilyThrasher.jpg (443169 bytes)Emily Thrasher Westfield Mass. Sept 20, 1916. Age. 89. Black ink handwritten signature on plain white block. This is the only signature that includes an age. This could lead someone to think it was made for her birthday, but its masculine appearance conflicts with this somewhat, so it remains unanswered. Black and white novelty check print with a navy on white neat and pin dot print.

Mrs. J. A Sackett. Westfield Mass. Sept. 20, 1916. Black ink handwritten signature, very similar in style to Emily Thrashers on the left, and is on the same plain white square as Emily's. Black on white geometric print with small red polka dots, not dense, on white.

Emma Carleton.jpg (210536 bytes)Emma T. Carleton Meriden, Conn. Nov. 12, 1913. Black ink signature on textured white stripe resembling lined paper and the signature is written on it as if it were. Novelty stripe of faux texture in navy, green and yellow/gold on white, with a navy and pin dot neat print on white.

Hannah M Horr Pelham Mass Nov 12, 1913 Black ink signature on plain white cotton square. A brown ground with pink and white flowers and golden stems, looks like an 1880s dress print, with another 1880s vermiculite gray on white print and black picotage dots following the vermiculite trail.

Please contact me if you have any information regarding the names on these signature blocks or any relevant information that might further the documentation of this signature top. Thank you!

Read more on: Album & Signature Quilt History, 1830 - Today: Revised September 2005
by Kimberly Wulfert   


* Quilts

2005 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use
of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One
personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

Fabrics & Dyes
Rugs & Textiles
Books & Reviews
Resource Links

Visit my
online shop ...
for quilt history lovers! 

* Gifts & Jewelry,
* Books & Stationery,
* Archival Supplies, 
* DVDs,
* Quiltmaker Supplies.