May 19, 2015

American History Quilt, 1937

I came across this wonderful quilt in my surfing today.

It was made and signed in 1937 by Camille Nixdorf Phelan.  There is a map of the US as it was in 1937: 48 states.  Landmarks and personalities are embroidered in the states.  The map is surrounded by a further 150 portraits of famous people - including Presidents, First Ladies, and herself as quiltmaker, 50 further landmarks, maps of 4 US territories.

Camille was born in 1882 in Missouri, and moved to Oklahoma after her marriage in 1900.  She became famous for her Oklahoma Historical Quilt that was displayed at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.  Here's a bit about that quilt in her own words (from the Oklahoma Historical Society site, link just previous):

"Twenty 100-yard spools of thread were used.  Every stitch of the embroidering is my own work and I spent all my spare time for four years in actual construction. Two years were spent in research work before I began the quilt."

Shortly after her success with Oklahoma history, she embarked on creating the America quilt.  It was documented, but lost, and finally resurfaced in the 1980s.

A description is at Rare Book Hub.  A further description, bio of the quiltmaker, and detail photos are in a Bidsquare listing, where the quilt was recently sold by Cowan Auctions for $19,200.
Oklahoma Historical Society photo

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