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Quilts from the Michigan State University Museum Collections

Whig Rose Quilt
Made unknown
Possibly Urbana, Ohio
89” x 89”
MSUM 2005.20.1, Gift of Katie McGrath
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

The mid-nineteenth century saw a rise in the popularity of red and green appliquéd quilts with, in some cases, an accent of bright yellow or pink. Mid-century quilts in this style frequently featured a floral design, with the flowers often stylized and an emphasized border design, often of swags, vines, or floral trails.

The popularity of the red and green color palette may have several origins. It may be an attempt to imitate the red and green floral colors or it might be an attempt to mirror the colors found in tree of life designs made of printed palampores and chintzes that were popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. During the mid-nineteenth century, red and green dyes were thought to be steadfast or stable. As the red and green quilts of this period have aged and especially after being exposed to light, the green-dyed fabric has often been found to fade to brown. The reds have, however, typically remained vibrant, as Turkey Red was one of the most stable dyes available in nineteenth century.

The pattern name “Whig Rose” was a popular nineteenth century pattern inspired by politics. The Whigs were an American political party formed around 1833 in opposition to the [Andrew] Jacksonian Democrats. Members of the Whig party included William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, Zachary Taylor, John Tyler (who was eventually expelled from the party), and Millard Fillmore. By 1856, the Whig party had dissolved, torn apart by the issue of the expansion of slavery into the territories.

This quilt, therefore, is a wonderful document of the history of textile dyes and needlework fashions and a reflection of political history.

Palampore- A colorful, wholecloth cotton spread, commonly featuring trees and floral patterns. Palampores were imported to the United States, usually from India.

Chintz- A cotton fabric that is frequently glazed and often features a large-scale printed design.

---By Mary Worrall

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