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Maker(s):Parker, Harriett (attributed)
Culture:American (1798-1875)
Date Made:early 19th century
Materials:textile: cotton, linen
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts
Measurements:overall: 83 1/4 in x 69 1/2 in; 211.455 cm x 176.53 cm
Accession Number:  HD 87.124.1
Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. Harriet McKissock
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Cotton whitework quilt (or called quilt "in imitation of marseille" in the early 19th century) with a center diamond-shaped medallion with a floral spray on the a cotton face (seamed down the middle) and a white dimity ruffle, which may have been added later; a coarser linen backing; and cotton batting, which may have been made by Harriet Parker (1798-1875). According to the donor: "This quilt came to me in 1975 with the four-poster canopy bed which was part of the wedding furniture of my great-great grandmother. She was Harriett Parker of Pepperell, Mass., married there on Jan. 17, 1819 to Judge James Lewis. According to my mother, her wedding furniture was made in England, shipped to Boston and transported to Pepperell by oxcart." Unfortunately there is no recorded history of the quilt: perhaps it was made by the bride herself. I have a finely worked sampler done by her at age ten, but of course that was not unusual for girls of that time. The quilt has always been passed on with the bed. The house in Pepperell was built by Judge Lewis for his bride and still stands on the main road by the village green.... My mother acquired the bed when her old family home in West Newton, Mass., was dismantled. She used it in her guestroom, but she only used the quilt on special occasions because of its fragility. She took great pleasure in getting it out of its tissue paper in the big closet every time I went ot visit her, and I carried on the same procedure after I inherited it. Some years ago, in 1978, an article in the N.Y. Times about The Textile Conservation Workshop in South Salem, N.Y., inspired me to take the quilt to them for advice on its care and preservation. ..." The daughter of Samuel Parker and Submit Gilson, Harriet Parker married James Lewis (1785-1845) in 1819. They lived in Pepperell where he practiced law, and was a member of the State House of Representatives during the sessions of 1827, 1830, and 1834 and was a member of the State Senate from 1828-1829. Both loom-quilted and and hand-quilted versions of what is now referred to as whitework (white quilts with white embroidery or surface design) were widely available in American during the 18th and 19th centuries. Current scholarship suggests that the contemporary use of the the term 'marseille' referred only to quilting done on the loom, while hand-made examples were referred to as a 'white quilt' or 'white quilted counterpane.' The whitework quilts evolved out of the intricately quilted, stuffed, and embroidered bed quilts, petticoats, and waistcoats produced in France, India, and England in the 17th and 18th century. Called "marseille" after the port through which the French quilting was exported, this work was replicated by the drawloom in a technique patented in 1745. Improvements throughout the 1760s to this quilting accomplished "in the loom" led to the general availabliliy of the fabric, sold as yardage or made up into garments, by the 1770s. The designs of Marselle quilts produced in the loom were based on the traditional handmade marselle bedcovers made in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The neoclassical whitework quilts inspired by the machine-woven examples also display the framed center medallion designs, often with realistic and elegant floral motifs. Both stuffed and embroidered versions of all-white bedcovers were popular during the first third of the 19th century. Stuffed whitework quilts, such as this example, were often made to be included in a bride's wedding outfit, and were particularly prized because of the amount of labor that went into them. Although more difficult to keep clean, white domestic textiles, especially those made from cotton, could be easily laundered.

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