Image: Quilt top, USA, 1930's, with 'Jacob’s Ladder' pattern (TRC 2018.2411).
From Tuesday, 2nd June – subject to restrictions – the Textile Research centre, TRC Leiden will reopen its American Quilts exhibition, exploring the history, meaning and making of quilts over the last 200 years. The TRC houses one of the largest American quilt collections in Europe, and the exhibition includes examples from before the American Civil War (1861-1865), the late Victorian era, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Revival of the quilt craft in the 1970s.
Image: American star quilt, 1840's (TRC 2018.3119).
All quilts have a back story, but one quilt in the collection – a Rolling Star design – has an especially poignant one. As the exhibition curators Beverley Bennett and Susan Cave explain: “Every now and then the TRC is fortunate enough to receive a quilt that has a provenance. Although many family quilts from the 19th century survive, the descendants have few clues unless a written account came with it. Our Rolling Star is a quilt we would describe as in ‘Fair’ condition…it looks, well, brown, as though it has been in a river. Indeed.” The quilt was witness to a humanitarian disaster in Massachusetts, on 16th May 1874.
Image: A Rolling Star quilt, USA, c. 1870, a survivor of the disaster of 17 May 1874 (TRC 2019.2291).
“In May 1874, near the town of Skinnerville, western Massachusetts, it had been raining for weeks and on the 16th of that month part of the hill above the earth dam on Mill River suddenly gave way. The dam exploded upwards and a 20-foot wall of water tore downhill flattening houses, bridges, in fact everything in its path. Riders came thundering down the valley shouting warnings. Within an hour 139 souls were lost and the town of Skinnerville was no more… Amongst the debris from that tragedy, was the Rolling Star which, we believe, was hanging on the clothesline that fateful day.”
For more information visit www.trc-leiden.nl