Anson Baldwin Quilt
The Anson Baldwin Quilt is an excellent and well-documented example of pictorial folk art. Thirty-two pieced and appliquéd blocks, featuring star, flower, and pinwheel motifs, surround a scene—a rare feature. Farm workers feed chickens, tend cattle and pigs, pick flowers, and raise water from a well. The imaginary setting and figures may represent the homestead of Anson Baldwin, a judge and later a president of the Yonkers First National Bank. Though the quilt predates the Civil War, the two people who appear to be African American would have been free in New York, which abolished slavery gradually between 1799 and 1827.
Signed quilts gained popularity during the mid-nineteenth century, and this quilt is notable for the sheer number of signatures. Here, prominent female members of St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Yonkers, who met in Anson Baldwin’s home to sew quilts as a charity project for families in need, honored their host with a quilt of his own. Above the central block to the right, a symbolic hat represents Baldwin’s partnership in the William C. Waring Hat Factory.
Presentation quilts, known variously as commemorative, signature, or autograph quilts, were usually given as a remembrance of an event. Brides received celebratory quilts from family and friends, ministers were honored with quilts from their congregations, and widows were comforted in mourning. This Anson Baldwin Quilt is now three times commemorative: it was gifted to Baldwin in 1847, donated to the Hudson River Museum by the original owner’s granddaughter 100 years later, and is now displayed in the galleries in honor of our Centennial year.