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Caroline Miller

Pieced Quilt (Pinwheel)
1840 (pieced); 1849 (quilted) Huntington, Pennsylvania
calicoes, furnishing fabrics, and white cotton; quilted in grid
39 1/2 x 40 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia Smith Melton

During the late 1800s or early 1900s, this patchwork bedcover was proudly shown at a display of heirloom quilts. An old, hand written note once attached reads: “… number of pieces 1,056. Pieced in 1840 by eight-year-old Caroline Miller, Huntington, Pa. Later wife of Attorney A. H. Grimm, Huntington, Pa. Quilted by Mrs. Grimm's mother in 1849. Entered for display by Harriet E. Grimm.”

Before the advent of the sewing machine in !856, needle-work was an essential domestic skill. Girls were sometimes taught to sew at the age of three. By the time they were five, they had often made their first pieced quilt—usually one for a doll's or child's bed. Simple one- and four-patch patterns such as this triangular “pinwheel” design were preferred. Eight-year-old Caroline clearly used a wide variety of remnants from her mother's scrap bag. Sometimes the simple pattern almost disappears amidst thre medley of similarly toned textiles.