Quilt History by Fabric and Colors

It is no surprise that our recent visit to Pennsylvania provided many opportunities to explore quilts. The visit to Lancaster County Historical Society to specificly research their quilts offered several treasures and revelations. I expected to see a lot of red and green quilts from the area. However, the number of Chintz quilts preserved from the area was a wonderful surprise.

I expected to see fabrics with Lancaster Blue, a fabric with two blues present in the style of “double pink,” popular during the 1860-1880 period. With the name derived from the location, also known as Pennsylvania Blue, it was natural to think it would be in the quilts. Instead, I left in awe of a chrome yellow found in an antique quilt.

 

The element chromium was discovered in 1797 by Louis Vauquelin and used as a pigment in the second decade of the nineteenth century. The first English use of the phrase “chrome yellow” was 1818. Chrome yellow is produced by mixing solutions of lead nitrate and potassium chromate, a dangerous combination. Surprisingly it was often produced in the home as well as used first as a carriage paint. In presentations, I’ve often mentioned the carriage paint. Until the visit to the Lancaster County Historical Society, I wasn’t sure I’d seen that version.

 

The Lancaster Historical Society is also known for an anti-slave quilt, which sadly was divided in half between two family members with the fabric hidden in the binding. The Society being located in the Amish Community is also well-known for the wonderful collection of Amish quilts. While at the museum, be sure to visit “Wheatland” President James Buchanan’s home.

 

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