Friday, January 4, 2019

how quilts taught me to love history

inscribed Spanish American War quilt, donated to the International
Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
I was the worst history student in high school. Just like all the other high school academic subjects, it was boring and didn't seem relevant. Fortunately, I had an interest in photography and got through U.S. History by writing a term paper about Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. After that, I didn't need to worry about history anymore...or so I thought.

More than 25 years later, I discovered a very interesting quilt on eBay. It was inscribed with many names, and in the center medallions of each block were the names of places, such as Spain. A quick google search led me to the realization that the center medallion inscriptions were not just names of places, they were the names of ships from the Spanish American War.

USS Concord, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I always knew quilts were history objects, but the artistic and design elements were much more my focus. When I discovered the places inscribed in the center medallions were ships, it unlocked history for me. The quilt taught me how to love researching history.

The inscribed Spanish American War quilt is now part of the collection at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. I donated it to the museum when they were planning an exhibition called "Covering the War" in 2015. I didn't realize it at the time, but Spanish American War quilts are quite rare. Why? As I learned from the quilt, it was a short, very one-sided war.


  1. I wasn't fond of history either. Memorizing names, dates, events... Blech! It's been in recent years, it's become more interesting, as I find out how slanted toward white male military viewpoint my history (and science history come to think of it) education was. Only passing mention of women, or non-whites of either gender.

  2. Genealogy has me more interested in history than I ever thought possible. I still like quilts best,