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Crazy quilts: A patchwork of culture and memories

March 24, 2015

Filed under Collections, Community and Domestic Life, Pennsylvania Treasures

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Crazy quilts became popular across America after the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The exposition’s Japanese Pavilion provided many Americans with their first glimpse of Japanese culture in the form of painted screens, needlework, porcelain, furniture and lacquerware that captured the nation’s imagination influencing art, opera, architecture, fashion and quilts.

By the 1880s, crazy quilting, also called Japanese patchwork, had become a nationwide fad, popularized by ladies’ periodicals. Although the exact origins of crazy quilting are unknown, it is believed that Japanese design inspired this style of quilting. The quilts were constructed using irregular scraps of fabric held together by decorative embroidery stitches. Women personalized their quilts using remnants of significant fabrics, commemorative ribbons and stitched motifs that reflected the quilt maker’s interests.

This quilt, made by Amelia Shiery Linderman, is distinctive since a great deal of Linderman’s life is reflected in the quilt’s patchwork. Amelia was born in 1868 and grew up in Kutztown, Pa., where she began this quilt while still a teenager. She married Daniel Boone Linderman (whose initials are embroidered on the quilt) on January 29, 1891. In November of that same year, they moved to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota, at that time home to the Minnesota Chippewa also known as the Ojibwe people.

The couple worked for a year at the Leech Lake Boarding School, Daniel as a principal teacher and Amelia as a matron. It was during her time living and working on the Leech Lake Reservation that Amelia acquired the ten pieces of Ojibwe beadwork that she incorporated into her crazy quilt. Traditional Ojibwa beading was worked in geometric designs. Floral patterns, such as those found on the Linderman quilt, emerged after the Ojibwe began trade with Europeans.

After their year in Minnesota, Daniel and Amelia returned to Kutztown where she was presumably still working on her crazy quilt when her daughter Florence Amelia Linderman was born in 1893. It is assumed from an embroidered date on the quilt that Amelia finished her project in 1895 when she was 27.

In 1903, the family moved to the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona where Daniel and Amelia worked for the next 18 years at both the Blackwater Day School and the Maricopa Day School. While a housekeeper at Maricopa, Amelia also taught female students how to quilt. Florence followed in her father’s footsteps and became a teacher and later a navy nurse. She donated many of her parents’ possessions, including this quilt, to The State Museum in 1966.

Collections Advancement Project Curators Rachel Lovelace-Portal and Maureen Lane selected this quilt as this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure.


About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.