Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revisiting the Coxcomb

On Saturday, the Oregon Quilt Project held a documentation day at the Willamette Heritage Center / Mission Mill Museum in Salem, and there was a coxcomb quilt that had been identified as "The Olive Branch" - a pattern published by the Ladies Home Journal, which appears in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique as pattern #43.74. 

When I saw the quilt, I couldn't believe anyone would call the pattern an olive branch, because olive branches and coxcombs bear no botanical resemblance to each other. So, I looked it up.

OQP # 2011.02.041 was called "The Olive Branch" BB#43.74
I had, and still have, a lot of doubts about calling the pattern "The Olive Branch". In my mind, it's clearly a coxcomb. When I was searching through the Encyclopedia of Applique, I came across another pattern, #43.78, an unnamed pattern from plate #25 in the 1988 Quilt Engagement Calendar, which was almost identical to the pattern seen on the Mary Couchman Small album quilt in my collection (pictured at top).


So, I'm wondering if anyone out there has a 1988 Quilt Engagement Calendar they could check for me. If the quilt pictures in plate #25 is one of the two Couchman/Small family quilts, it could help me in my research. If it happens to be the quilt I own, it would be particularly enlightening. I know my quilt was part of Sandra Mitchell's collection around 1995, when it was published in Shelly Zegart's book American Quilt Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces, but one of the biggest mysteries I've yet to solve is when Mitchell acquired it from the family. 

Any leads appreciated!


  1. Hi Bill-The 1988 engagement calendar lists it as being from Stella Rubin. It's called Thistle and dated c.1870 and from Parkersburg West Virgina.if it was from Sandra Mitchell, she probably got it from another dealer. She was not at her all-american best dealing with civilians.

  2. Mary Bywater Cross sent me a picture of the quilt, and it raises more questions. Both Couchman/Small quilts descended through the family of one of Mary's other daughters, Harriett's sister, Elizabeth Jane Small Sperow. So, now I'm wondering if Elizabeth lived in Parkersburg at any point. If so, there could be a connection. I'm thinking Elizabeth could've made the "thistle" quilt using the design on both Mary and Harriett's quilts. I've only ever seen this variation of the coxcomb on these three quilts.

    Intriguing, eh?

  3. Thistle makes so much more sense than olive branch...with I knew more! Great mystery to follow though...