Friday, January 21, 2011

Salem, Oregon American Legion Quilt, 1931

Another exciting find on eBay recently, and thank you to Julie Silber of The Quilt Complex for alerting me. This quilt is a 1931 American Legion quilt made in Salem, Oregon by members of the Capital Unit of Post No. 9. It is wonderfully inscribed with names of members and officers, all stitched with blue embroidery thread. 

This quilt is the first quilt I've ever purchased that is definitely made in Oregon. I did a quick google search on "Capital Unit Post No. 9, Salem, Oregon" and discovered that the organization is part of the American Legion, and has been active in the community for many years. Around the center ring appear inscriptions naming officers, current and past, hence the earlier dates such as 1926 (pictured).

According to the Salem Public Library, Post No. 9 was actively involved in raising funds for projects such as the Salem Airport. In 1931, Post No. 9 went on record as endorsing the action of the Executive Committee in favoring the sponsoring and raising of $2,000 for the new home of the Salvation Army.

The quilt appears to be a commemorative quilt, possibly part of the fundraising effort for the new Salvation Army building in 1931, and two of the names, including James Gardner (pictured) have yellow/gold stars. The stars by the names could indicate that these people were killed during the war, or had passed away - but the stars are definitely a special designation of some nature.

The star medallion in the center is the same basic design as the American Legion emblem (below), which includes a five-pointed star and rays emanating from the center. The quilting reflects these rays, and is done with yellow thread. 

This quilt was an unexpected surprise, and is representative of the many community quilt projects done in Oregon. I shared pictures with author Mary Bywater Cross, who wrote "Treasures in the Trunk: Quilts of the Oregon Trail", which was published in two editions. Mary and I are going to get together tomorrow to look at the quilt in person, and she has asked if she could include it in a presentation she's doing in the Salem area in February. Of course, I said yes. 


  1. How wonderful to have something from you own state of Oregon. I guess you feel you can somehow relate to this one.

  2. What a great quilt Bill!! How fun to be able to share it with other Oregonians too!!

  3. How wonderful to find a quilt with so much local history. Does that American Legion Post still exist? They may be able to give you more information on it. I know our local VFW has several large files stuffed with the chapter's news-clippings, membership rolls, etc....

  4. Update: I just spoke to Jason Virnig, current Commander of Post 9, and he is interested in helping us find out more about the quilt. I learned two very interesting things from him. 1) the gold stars were commonly used to indicate past commanders who had passed away; and 2) there was an American Legion convention in Portland in 1932. So, this quilt could've been part of the fundraising effort for the Salvation Army in 1931, or a commemorative for the convention in 1932, or both. Now that we've opened up a dialog about it, I think more information will eventually surface. Mary and I will be getting together in the near future to transcribe all the names, and I contacted the seller to see if we could find out the name of the estate it came from.