1844 “Forget Me Not” Friendship Album Quilt

I purchased this quilt from the Santa Fe craigslist. By the time I spied the $75 listing, it had been live for more than 30 days. The seller said she got it from a friend’s thrift store in Los Angeles. “It’s really old,” she said.

Yes, it is.  I’ve always heard these sorts of quilts referred to as friendship quilts, they are quite common and have a long history. This quilt is an example of the very earliest, they were all the rage in the 1840s and referred to then as album quilts.

In American Quilts: The Democratic Art, Bob Shaw titles Chapter 3 “The Golden Age of Applique”, 1840-1860. Shaw notes that block-style construction had just begun to overtake the European approach of building a quilt around a central medallion.

“Sampler quilts first became popular in the 1840s, just as block-style design began to overtake the central medallion format as the dominant organizational method employed by American quiltmakers,” Shaw writes about quilts in which each block is a different design.

“Early samplers, many of which are preserved in museum collections, are reminders of the most important era of transition in American quiltmaking, when this country’s women were developing a new and uniquely American approach to quilt design and organization.”

Shaw discusses Album quilts as made and signed by groups of women to give to a departing friend, or perhaps a minister leaving their church, as a common practice. “America was on the move in those years,” he writes, noting that three and a half million Europeans migrated to the United States between 1825 and 1900.

Searching the names I can make out on this quilt online at ancestry.org, it’s very possible that many of these women were born in England.

There’s a “forget me not” poem embroidered on one of the blocks. It’s very hard to make out who it’s to or from.  But by deciphering just a few phrases I was able to find it through an online search.

Let memory sometimes bear thee back, To other days almost forgot; And when you think of other friends, Who love thee well–Forget me not.

The earliest reference I found to the poem is in The Literary Gazette, and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences in 1825, attributing the poem to E. Morrar, of Edinburgh (abbreviated Edinb.)

Who knows where this quilt traveled in the 173 years before it landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The fabric has that aged “tea” look that you see done on purpose these days in reproduction quilts and other fabric items made to decorate homes. But in this quilt, it’s the real deal.

The quilt is full of signatures in ink, most of them so smudged that it’s very hard to make them out. But thanks to Amy Tucker and Rachel Chandler, we know that the quilt was made in 1844. There are also a few place names in ink that are just on the edge of decipherable.

While there’s quite a bit of fabric loss, there’s still a lot to enjoy as well.



There are numbers in ink on the back. Makes me wonder if the quilt spent some time in an institution, maybe a nursing home. Please be in touch if you have more information about what these numbers might mean.

Psychedelic mushroom quilt, c. 1970

This is a small-scale quilt, meant to hang on the wall.  I consider this piece an early example of psychedelic art, which developed in the late 1960s/1970s.

The quilter’s colors, fabric choices, and motifs–paisley sky, bright rainbow, happy flowers and floating fluffy clouds–evoke the counter culture art and vibe of the period.

Mushrooms are a common theme found in crewel/needlework or ceramic art of the 70s, and they are also often found in fabric prints.

But while there were a lot of quilt patterns published in magazines of the era that were whimsical, depicting landscapes with suns, mountains and rainbows, I’ve yet to see one that centered this floating variety of psilocybin mushroom. For this reason, I believe this is an original design (please point me to other examples, if you have them. I’d love to see them).

The quilter intentionally placed the mushrooms as the focal point, as though to say, “these are important”. Much like this cover of an 1968 underground magazine, the International Times, that centers an amanita mushroom:

Grandma Davis, 1978

Merry Christmas, Elizabeth. Grandma Davis. 1978

Silky thin, it’s made from stretchy, lightweight polyester blends and has a pink back.

Swirling baskets, c. 1940

From an estate in Flanders, New York, it was attributed to an African American quilt maker. Large and heavy, it’s been very well cared for. Some of the prints and the quilting style place it in the first half of the 20th century, c. 1940.

Cross, c. 1950

This is a 2017 addition to the collection. Beautiful rich colors, incredible graphic appeal. Soft cotton blends, a piece of plaid, and framed in rich red. It’s hard to date this one, but the plaid, the ties, and simply how it feels in hand strikes me as mid 20th century.

Modern log cabin, c. 1900

This log cabin quilt was one of five tucked away in a chest in a southern Colorado estate. All five were sold online around 2005. The others were all a lot more complex in design. But I liked the clean lines, strong color and simplicity of this one. Men’s wool suiting, with a flannel back.

Blocks, c. 1930

Simplicity and color give this quilt strong graphic appeal. It’s one of the first I ever purchased, and a favorite still today. The back is dyed a deep blue, and it’s quite heavy. Perhaps there’s another quilt or a blanket inside. I’m dating it between 1920 and 1940, but would welcome other’s thoughts.