From President Washington to President Obama quilts reflect the life and times of the men who lead and serve our country. Whether made by their family members or presented to them by admiring citizens these quilts make interesting study.
George Washington’s wife Martha was an excellent needle worker. Their plantation home Mount Vernon displays a quilt that as was the custom of the day worked on by many women, but Martha did the most important part: the centerpiece.
Abraham Lincoln is linked to several quilt blocks. The most popular depict the log cabin he called home, his stovepipe hat and his platform.
Two Whig presidents are honored on the “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” block which refers to William Henry Harrison and his running mate John Tyler. After Harrison’s victory over the Shawnee Indians near the Tippecanoe River in Indiana he was the first presidential candidate to actively campaign for the office. The slogan was set to song and called “Tip and Ty”. President Harrison who died of pneumonia after serving a month in office due to his long winded inaugural speech is also the subject of the quilt block the “Harrison Rose”.
It’s worth a trip to Indianapolis to visit the home of President Benjamin Harrison (grandson of WH Harrison) who served during the Victorian era from 1889-1893. I recall a small child-size crazy quilt on exhibit from when I visited his home many years ago.
In late 2011 the quilts at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum were documented and can now be found on the QuiltIndex.org. Ike grew up on the family farm in Abilene, Kansas along with his six brothers. Their mother Ida Stover Eisenhower made many quilts for the family’s use. Back in the day one can imagine Ike and his brothers assisting their mother by threading her needles. A beloved WWII hero and President Ike and Mamie were bestowed with quilts during their White House years and in retirement.
In 1938 Farm Journal featured the quilt pattern “Road to the White House”. In 1992 a quilting magazine ran a cover photo of candidate Bill Clinton snoozing under “Road” quilt on his campaign plane.
These are just a few examples of presidential quilt blocks and the men they represent. It would be interesting to visit all of their homes and libraries to discover the textile treasures that define their times.
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts a restoration studio and gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Ave.