Hunterdon County Signature Quilt

Unknown maker
ca. 1860–90
MediumCotton, ink
Dimensions91 1/2 × 79 inches
CreditGift of Dorothy & Leo Rabkin, 1991
Accession Number91.16.4

Recent research reveals that all forty-two names on these squares were residents of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Several people are married couples or otherwise related, and a few repeated names suggest it was made for fundraising. Up to three people would have pieced and sewn this quilt, which features several calico fabrics in minute and intricate prints.

Planning a signed quilt of this kind required a block pattern with open spaces suitable to hold names. This square-within-square design, one of a number of variations called the chimney sweep, is ideal because the central square within each block provides writing space. Womens’ magazines and household advice books gave recipes for indelible ink to use on textiles, often containing nitrate of silver and ammonia.

Exhibition History