Making a Living Making Quilts: A Historical Perspective

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

William Gardner's Quilt Shop: Buying a Quilt

I recently bought this 1868 receipt on eBay. 

What caught my eye was that William Gardner on Canal Street in New York City sold everything that had to do with the bed: The bedstead, the pillow slip, the sheetings, the feathers  and Quilts.


His store was on Canal between Broadway and Centre. This 1838 painting
shows the corner of Canal and Broadway---a large retail district.

Across the street from Earle's Hotel.

Gardner advertised the drygoods part of his business in the years 1866 - 1868.

He sold
"QUILTS
Especial attention is called to our stock of 
WHITE and COLORED MARSEILLES, 
ALHAMBRA, 
CROCHET, 
LANCASTER, 
ALLENDALE, 
HONEY COMB 
and other STYLES OF QUILTS in 9-4, 10-4, 11-4, 12-4, 13-4
BERTH, CRIB and CRADLE sizes."

I know what some of these are. Crochet quilt seems obvious---probably machine made.


A Marseilles Quilt is what would be advertised today as a Matelassé quilt---a machine woven bedcovering with texture. The name seems to have been the generic name for factory-made coverlets of the type.


Lancaster Quilt was the trade name of a machine-made bedcover woven at a factory in Worcester County, Massachusetts at the Lancaster Mills.

An Allendale Quilt was a similar item, made in Providence, Rhode Island.


I found a few references to a Chintz Alhambra quilt and I'd imagine we could describe it as a whole-cloth print quilt, maybe quilted. Above an English reference to a "coloured Alhambra." The name might have to do with the Oriental craze for bedroom decor. I can imagine an Alhambra quilt in a paisley pattern.


UPDATE: Virginia V puts my paisley dream in the category of unsubstantiated information:
She found much more about Alhambra Quilts, distinguished more by the weave than any
decorative imagery.

"The term 'Alhambra' is a descriptive trade name employed to distinguish a well-known type of textile fabrics comprising several varieties that are chiefly produced in relatively coarse and heavy cotton textures of an inferior and cheap class that are sold under a variety of fanciful names, and employed extensively as counterpanes or bed-quilts." Grammar of Textile Design by H. Nesbit.



This 1916 discussion of factory-made coverlets tells you more than you want to know about where the filling comes from.
UPDATE: Now I am thinking they are referring to the filler in the weave across the warp rather than the stuffing inside the quilt.

 This indicates that these might be more like an actual comforter than a machine-woven textured bedcover.


"Wanted Two Good Operators---
One on Wheeler & Wilson's machine, and the other on Plainer & Angers"

Here's a New York ad in 1861 for sewing machine operators. "Must understand quilting." Perhaps an ad from a quilt factory that made some of those commercially produced bedcovers.

1 comment:

  1. I have one, maybe two of those white matelassé "quilts" that I inherited, and I love the look. In storage at the moment. Hoping to have a real house again, not be living in a travel trailer the rest of my years, so once again I can see my treasures.

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