Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

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Professional Quilters in Philadelphia

When we were researching quilters who made BAQ’s we were searching for evidence of who might have made a living creating those quilts or at least supplemented their income. Evidence of women who advertised as quilters or sold quilt blocks was limited, and therefore researchers tended to explore dressmakers or milliners as possibilities.

In Philadelphia, the first reference to a quilter in a Philadelphia Business Directory occurs in 1820. Beulah Wilson was listed as a quilter on Poplar Lane near Front. She made a living as a quilter for more than 10 years. In the 1830 edition of the Business Directory, she added mantua maker along with quilter. Also, Mary Hopper and Jas. Strain were listed in later directories as quilters only.

Ads in the Philadelphia newspaper seeking quilters for employment appeared in August 1846 to apply to M’Me Dufrene, a milliner. (BAQ research saw a connection between a milliner and selling album blocks.) In 1857, I was surprised to see a want ad for a “good quilter with a machine, and also without.” Machine quilting for hire started much earlier than I expected. Multiple ads for hand and machine quilting continued for several years. In 1861, M’me Demorest advertised that she was the sole agent in the US of a Self-Tucker, Plaiter, and Quilter attachment, “the most useful and indispensable made improvement ever applied to sewing machines.” For only $5, you could turn your sewing machine into a quilting machine.