Every experience deeply felt in life needs to be passed along. Whether it be through word or music, chiseled in stone, painted with a brush, or sewn with a needle, it is a way of reaching for immortality. ~ Thomas Jefferson
One enters a sphere of timelessness when looking at a Pennsylvania Dutch quilt for there are many memories sewn into each one. Yet it was the hand-woven coverlets and not the quilts that were their first top bed coverings. By the mid-eighteen hundreds, however, both industrialization and acculturation brought about a transition from coverlets to quilts fashioned from inexpensive printed cotton left-over from making dresses, and other articles of clothing. Once quilting caught on, the Pennsylvania Germans never looked back, and used their ingenuity and resourcefulness to create stunning, yet practical quilts to stay warm; to demonstrate their sewing and designing skills; and to memorialize family and friends on fabric. This post will focus on the latter quilts known as friendship or signature quilts.
The popularity of friendship quilts coincides with the American Civil War, and as Lynn Zacek Bassett observes In War Time: A Study of Civil War Era Quilts 1850-1865:
Concerns over separation encouraged another genre of quilts in the period
prior to the war: friendship quilts, in which family members, friends, neighbors, and associates signed pieced calico blocks, often in order to present the finished quilt as a gift to someone who was leaving the community, whether to go west, to go to another parish, or to follow her husband to a new home…At home, women expressed their beliefs, fears, strengths, and struggles in their quilts before, during, and after the war (p.6).
In 1983, and again from 1990-1992, some of the quilts the Goschenhoppen Historians documented in their quilt surveys of the Goschenhoppen area—roughly the upper Perkiomen watershed—were friendship quilts with names inscribed in Fraktur that had been made in the mid- to late nineteenth century by young Pennsylvania Dutch women living in eastern Berks, southern Lehigh, southern Bucks and northern Montgomery County.
One example from the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, and three from the Goschenhoppen Historians’ Textile collection are representative of these quilts:
The Hannah Derolf Fraktur quilt (1868) from the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center Textile collection: SLHC Quilt 2012.23.01 features a pattern known as Rolling Stone. Dimenstons are 99″ L x 75″ W; colors: red, yellow, orange, blue, brown, black; place of origin: Bucks County; number of blocks: 30. One finds the following Fraktur script inscribed on the central ownership block:
Hannah Derolf | ihr Teppich | 1868 | W. Grosz
[Hannah Derolf | her quilt | 1868 | W. Grosz]
Hannah Derolf (1847-1923) was born December 6, 1847 in Pike Township, Berks County Pennsylvania to Jacob and Maria Derolf. Per the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, her relatives George Derolf and his wife Elizabeth, née Fronheiser lived in the neighborhood with their five children, and the Jacob Fronheisers and Daniel Fronheisers also lived nearby. Jacob was a laborer. At age twelve she was living with the Joel Miller Family in Spinnersville, Milford Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania as a domestic servant.
In 1868 at age 21 Hannah married Daniel L. Miller, and had two children by him: Amanda L Miller in 1870, and Hannah Miller in 1882. During her married years she lived in Milford Township, Bucks County, PA, and died there on May 28, 1923 at the age of seventy-five. The informant on the death certificate was her son-in-law Franklin W. Gerhart of East Greenville, PA, who listed her father as Jno Dierolf, and mother as Sarah Fronheiser. This conflicts with information on the 1850 U. S. Census for Hannah Derolf’s parents. She is buried at St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Red Hill, PA.
Hannah made her friendship quilt in 1868, the year she was married, and we can identify some of the names we find on her quilt: Jacob Derolf (father); Elizabeth Derolf–possibly Aunt Elizabeth, born ca. 1812 or Cousin Elizabeth, born 1849; Daniel Miller (husband); Joel Miller (employer); Rebecca Miller (Joel Miller’s wife); Sarah Miller (Joel Miller’s daughter) James Miller (Joel Miller’s father).
William Gross (Grosz, Groß), a very active scrivener who infilled—usually with a crimson-colored ink—an enormous number of Taufscheins in Berks, Bucks, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties from 1860-1886, inscribed the names on the quilt in Fraktur script. If we take a look below at a birth and baptismal certificate printed by Saeger and Leisenring in 1864, recording Harvey Jacob Wieand’s birth in 1860 (ILLs. 2a, 2b), we can see an excellent example of Gross’ talent as a Fraktur calligrapher, as well as that he was signing his name in German script, not Fraktur. However his signature “W. Grosz“ for John Franklin Kern’s Taufschein ca. 1867 (ILL. 3) is in Fraktur script, just as it is for Hannah’s Fraktur quilt. Groß never added baskets of flowers to the birth and baptismal certificates he infilled, but he did so for all the quilts he inscribed, an example of which is found on Hannah’s owner block. Light orange floral cotton print is used for the signature blocks, but it should be noted that usually they were made of white muslin, and the ink used for the inscriptions was black. There is no listing of the inscribed signatures available online. However, the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center will be happy to supply a complete list upon request.
The Angelina Ritter Fraktur quilt (1852) from the Goschenhoppen Historians Textile collection : GH Quilt 2003.05.01 also features the Rolling Stone pattern. Dimensions are 94″ L x 98″ W; colors: red, yellow, blue, white; place of origin: Lehigh County; number of blocks: 25. The Goschenhoppen Historians purchased the quilt from Victoria Hoffman in 2003. Inscribed on the central ownership block in Fraktur script we find:
Angelina | Ritter | ihr Teppich. | 1852
[Angelina | Ritter | her quilt | 1852]
Angelina (Engaline, Enschulina, Anjuline, Annjulina) Ritter (1834-1900) was born March 14, 1834 in Salisbury Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to Michael Ritter and Elowissa (Allevesa, Eloisa, Ellen Louisa) née Miller. In 1852, when she made her quilt, Angelina was seventeen and single. Her father was a well-to-do farmer whose property (real and personal) was valued at $7000. She too married a farmer Addison S. Mohry (1836-1897) on December 12, 1856 in Salisbury Township, Lehigh County, PA. During her married years the family lived in Emmaus, PA. There were three children: John born 1859; Laura born 1865; and Jennie born 1872. Angelina Mory died July 19, 1900.
A full list will soon be available online of the names Angelina commemorated on her bedcover. However, a few of the names appearing on the quilt are: Dianna Diehl; Susanna Kemmerer (possibly a second cousin); Ellewisa Ritter (mother); Benjamin Franklin Ritter (brother). The signatures are in Fraktur script inscribed by an anonymous scrivener, who used two leafy boughs to encircle Angelina’s name, identification of ownership, and date on her owner block. It has been suggested by Russell and Corinne Earnest that it could be the “Footed Letter Scrivener,” a scrivener who used either scarlet or reddish brown ink when he infilled Taufscheins. He is known to have been active in Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Schuylkill Counties from ca. 1843-1860. The sobriquet “Footed Letter Scrivener” is used to describe this artist because of the way the serifs at the bottom of his capital letters ‘M,’ ‘N,’ and ‘K’ turn outwards like a foot. Nancy Roan finds Jonathan Kemmerer to be an excellent candidate as the scrivener of the names on this quilt, and others, referencing Jonathan’s block on his sister Susanna Kemmerer’s Fraktur friendship quilt of 1852, as well as several Taufschein examples at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center. Unlike William Groß, who includes his signature in the quilt owner’s block, Jonathan Kemmerer does not. He uses his signature block to advertise that he is a daguerrotypist. Hopefully, someday we will find a signed piece by this scrivener. The encircling leafy boughs decorative element has only been found on the Fraktur quilts, but not on any Taufscheins known to be inscribed by either the “Footed Letter Scrivener,” or those attributed to Jonathan Kemmerer.
The Anna Maria Desch Fraktur quilt (1853) from the Goschenhoppen Historians Textile collection : GH Quilt 1994.02.01 features the Flying Crow pattern, deviating from the usual Rolling Stone pattern that was used for almost all other known Fraktur quilts. Dimensions are 84″ L x 100″W; colors: red, yellow, pink, blue, green, white; place of origin: Lehigh County; number of blocks: 30. The Goschenhoppen Historians purchased the quilt ca. 1994 from Judy Hurdle, an antiques dealer, who had bought it from Horst Auction in Ephrata, PA. Inscribed on the central ownership block in Fraktur script is:
Anna Maria | Desch | ihr Teppich. | 1853
Anna Maria | Desch | her quilt | 1853
Anna Maria Desch (1834-19020) was born April 1, 1834 in Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to Daniel Desch and his wife Elizabeth, née Ruth, and was baptized at Zion Lehigh Lutheran Church on May 11, 1834. Her maternal grandparents Philip and Maria Ruth were her Godparents. In 1850 Anna Maria’s father’s property (personal and real) was valued at $3000. This was a large family with a total of eight children. Her father Daniel died in 1853, the year she made her quilt. Anna Maria never married, as was the case for two of her younger brothers William and Daniel. All three lived at home with their mother Elizabeth until her death in 1886, and per the United States Federal Census were still living together on a farm in 1900. In this same census record all are listed as being able to read and write, but unable to speak English. She died October 18, 1902 and is buried in Solomon’s U. C. C. Church Cemetery in Macungie, PA.
The Goschenhoppen Historians Online Finding Aid includes all the names appearing on the quilt. Some of those are: William Desch (brother); Anna Maria Ruth (grandmother?); Anna Carolina Desch (sister); Peter Desch (brother); Stephanus Reimeyer; Hannah Baer; Sarah Anna Desch (sister) ; Eliza Ruth (mother?); Elweina Butz. Their names are inscribed in Fraktur script by the same anonymous frakturist who inscribed Angelina Ritter’s.
The Emma Schaffer Fraktur quilt (1871) from the Goschenhoppen Historians Textile collection : GH Quilt 2004.06.01 uses the representative Rolling Stone pattern. The dimensions are : 87″ L x 82″ W; colors: red, yellow, green, blue, white; place of origin: Bucks County; No. of Blocks: 36. The Goschenhoppen Historians purchased the quilt from Dennis Moyer in 2004. Inscribed on the central ownership block in Fraktur script we find:
Emma Schaffer | 1871 | William Gross
A full list will soon be available online for all of the men and women whose names are written on Emma’s quilt, and the picture, of course, may change as we gather more definitive data. Nonetheless, some of the names such as Tilghman Kline, Rebecca Kline, Emma Schaffer (on 2 signature blocks and the owner block), Erwin Dietz, Mary Erney, and Elizabeth Schaffer, can presently be partially accounted for. Mary Erney was born June 6,1852 to Jonas Erney and Hannah, née Marsteller in Coopersburg, Lower Milford Township, Lehigh County, PA. In the 1870 U. S. Federal Census Jonas listed his estate value (real and personal) as $4000, that of a prosperous farmer. Ca. 1873 Mary married Erwin S. Dietz, also a farmer from Coopersburg, Lower Milford Township, Lehigh County, PA. According to the United States Federal Census Tilghman P. Kline, a farmer, and his wife Rebecca Kline were living in Emmaus, Salisbury Township, Lehigh County, PA in 1870 with their family and Emma Schaffer, an eighteen-year-old domestic servant. This Emma [C.] Schaffer was born November 1852 in the Bridgeton area of Bucks County, PA to William S. Schaffer, and Elizabeth, née Lambert . There were five children in her family, and her father was a farm laborer with a value of $50 for his personal estate. She married William Pursell, a canal boatman, in 1871, the same year she made her quilt. Emma had seven children between 1873 and 1893, and spent her entire adult life in Bridgeton, Bucks County, PA. She died March 27, 1931 in Milford, Hunterdon County, NJ in the home of her daughter Mrs. Samuel Shaffer, at the age of 78 and is buried at the Upper Tinicum Cemetery in Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, PA. Her obituary was published in the Hunterdon County Democrat on April 2, 1931.
William Gross is the professional scrivener of this quilt as well, and inscribes all the names in Fraktur script. As in Hanna Derolf’s owner block, he identifies himself with a hand drawn basket of languid flowers, but in this case changes his signature on the base to his full name. His Fraktur script style in Emma’s is far less ornamental than in Hannah’s.
Who paid for these Fraktur signatures, the maker, owner or the persons whose names appear on the quilt? During their 1983, 1990-1992 quilt surveys Nancy Roan, Ellen Gehret, and Alan G. Keyser gathered information on quilt traditions from knowledgeable Pennsylvania Dutch informants such as Wilson H. Green of Green Lane, PA who shared that these signature quilts of the mid-nineteenth century were known as Beddelmann Teppiche or Begger Quilts because “the maker ‘begged’ family members and close friends for a sum before putting their names on the quilt” (Lest I Shall Be Forgotten, p. 17). Lucinda Cawley in her article “Ihr Teppich: Quilts and Fraktur” in the American Quilt Study Group’s Coverings (p. 14) states that “there is no contemporary evidence that money was solicited in connection with putting names on the quilts. They are more accurately described as fraktur inscribed quilts.”
Webster’s Dictionary (webster.com/dictionary/tradition) defines tradition as “the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.” So, expert quilters such as Sadie Krauss Kriebel, whose mother Annie Hoffman Krauss was born in 1879, and grandmother Elizabeth Kriebel Krauss in 1859, could easily reach back to the time period in question, i.e. mid-nineteenth century, through living references capable of verbally relating Pennsylvania Dutch folk customs as experienced during their lifetimes. It is interesting to note that written evidence often comes from outside the culture, not within, as in travel diaries kept by people who find a tradition peculiar to their own worth noting. That no contemporary written evidence has yet been found does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Sadie, a living continuance of quilt traditions, could immediately identify a Beddelmann quilt shown to her by Nancy Roan during the quilt surveys: “This quilt [261-83] was made in 1862, probably by Mrs. Christina Kriebel who died in 1906…Everybody whose name is on [it] gave a dime” (Lest I Shall Be Forgotten, p. 17).
Friendship quilts were and are made by the Pennsylvania Dutch to also celebrate special occasions for important anniversaries, birthdays, or other special days, and the well-wishers’ names were and are not only hand written in Fraktur script, but also embroidered, and with the progression of time have been inscribed in Roman script, as well as printed, and/or stamped.
Also, churches and other non-profit organizations used and continue to use friendship quilts to raise money: Chances are often sold to win a signature on one of the blocks. Once all signature blocks are taken, a seamstress embroiders or a scrivener hand inscribes each name onto the block. The entire quilt can then be raffled off or sold at auction (Earl F. Robaker “Stitching for Pretty,” Pennsylvania Folklife, p. 9).
St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, better known as the Blue Church, celebrated its 250th Anniversary in 1989. To commemorate this special occasion one of the parishioners designed a blue and white quilt that was quilted by the Blue Church quilters. Each quilter’s name was embroidered onto the quilt.
The Nancy Hasson Roan friendship quilt (1995), now part of the Mennonite Heritage Center (MHEP) Textile collection: 1995.29.01 was made to benefit MHEP. It uses the representative Rolling Stone pattern. The dimensions are 97.5″L x 83″W; colors red, yellow, blue, black, white; place of origin: Montgomery County; Number of Blocks: 30. Each block is made up of four to six names handwritten in black ink in Roman script.
Nancy Roan designed and pieced the quilt. It was then quilted by members of the Variable Star Quilting group, as well as MHEP volunteers. Supporters of the Mennonite Heritage Center paid to have their names inscribed on the quilt. Auctioned at the yearly Apple Butter Frolic, it was then donated back to the MHEP museum.
Karen Dever and Didi Salvatierra of Moorestown, NJ are members of the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG, Lincoln, Nebraska) and the Eastern Shore Quilt Study Group headed by Lucinda Cawley. In 2014 AQSG, to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial, issued a “Civil War Quilts” challenge.
The Challenge required participants to identify an inspiration quilt dating from 1850 to 1865. The quilt could be reproduced in whole or in part, or it could be used as the basis for a new meaningful design (In War Time: A Study of Civil War Era Quilts 1850-1865, pp. 7, 77).
While attending the Penn Dry Goods Market at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center in Pennsburg, PA—a yearly springtime combination of lectures, and exhibits focused on fancy stitchery and the history of textiles, as well as on-site antique dealers specializing in antique textiles, and related objects—Karen Dever found the perfect inspiration. Attending a quilt lecture by Nancy Ronk on Fraktur quilts, Karen heard about the Aveline S. A. Stern Fraktur quilt that had inspired Lucinda Cawley to research and write her 2004 “Ihr Teppich: Quilts and Fraktur” article in the AQSG periodical Uncoverings, and discovered that the Stern quilt is now part of the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Noting that Aveline’s husband Joseph had served in the Union army, Karen and Didi were thrilled to be able to create a sixteen-signature-block quilt based on the Avelina S. A. Stern Fraktur quilt to honor all the presidents of the AQSG who have served since its inception in 1980, and especially to pay tribute to Mrs. Cawley.
All of the above friendship quilts were made more for sentimental than practical reasons. It is the women’s and men’s names on these very special show pieces that are important as most all of the design elements of the quilts are simple and similar to each other. Also, the quilting is utilitarian rather than ornamental; the piecing of the blocks uncomplicated. Using Fraktur script to pen the names was representative of and unique to the Pennsylvania Dutch culture and time period. As time progressed, the names continued to be handwritten, but the calligraphy changed to stay in step with acculturation, and some were also printed or stamped. The owner of the quilt, who more than likely also made it, was, as evidenced by the above examples, remembering family and friends. Whether 1852, 1853, 1868, 1871, or 1989, 1995, 2015, the names embody the stories of a time period and community of people, and frequently are or may become the only surviving evidence that these women and men ever lived.
Allentown Art Museum. 1974. Pennsylvania Folk Art: [exhibition], October 20 through December 1, 1974, Allentown Art Museum. Allentown, Pa: The Museum.
Bassett, Lynne. In War Time: A Study of Civil War Era Quilts 1850 – 1865. Lincoln, Nebraska: American Quilt Study Group, 2015.
Cawley, Lucinda R. “Ihr Teppich: Quilts and Fraktur.” Uncoverings 2004 vol.25,
11- 40, Appendix II, Appendix III.
Certificate of Death. Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons), Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Certificate Nr. 62068 for Hannah [Dierolf] Miller; Certificate Nr. 110628 for Mary [Erney] Dietz.
Earnest, Russell D. and Corinne P. Papers for Birth Dayes: Guide to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners, East Berlin, Pa.: Russell D. Earnest Associates, 1997. 2nd ed., vol. 1, pp. 287-290; 335-338.
Eaton, Linda. Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection, exh. cat. New York: Abrams in association with the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 2007, 68-69.
Ewing, Gretchen. Quilts. Allentown: Call Chronicle, 1983.
Hollenbach, Raymond E. for Anna Maria Desch in Zion Lehigh Evangelical Lutheran Church Records: Births and Baptisms, 1750-1896 Alburtis, Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County, PA., Ms., p. 118, Entry Nr. 8.
Garvan, Beatrice B. and Charles F. Hummel. The Pennsylvania Germans: A Celebration of their Arts, 1683-1850, an exhibition October 17, 1982-January 9, 1983. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1982.
Holstein, Jonathan. Made To Remember. HF Johnson Museum, Cornell. Ithaca: H.F. Johnson Museum-Cornell, 1991, 36.
Nicoll, Jessica F. Quilted for Friends. Winterthur, DE: The Henry Francis dupont Winterthur Museum, 1986, 7.
Roan, Donald and Nancy. Lest I Shall Be Forgotten: Anecdotes and Traditions of Quilts Green Lane, PA: Goschenhoppen Historians, 1993.
Roan, Nancy and Ellen Gehret. ‘Just A Quilt’ or Juscht en Deppich. Green Lane, PA: Goschenhoppen Historians, n.d.
Robacker, Earl F. “Stitching for Pretty,” in Pennsylvania Folklife, Spring 1966, vol. 15, No. 3, 9.
Rogers, Susan. Crazy Like a Quilt. New York: New York Post, 1971, 46.
Shaw, Robert. American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780-2007. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009, 44-45.
Stopp, Klaus. The Printed Birth and Baptismal Certificates of the German Americans, vol.1 of 6. Mainz, Germany and East Berlin, Pa: privately published, 1997-1999.
United States 1850 Federal Census for Hannah Derolf: Year: 1850; Census Place: Pike, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_754; Page: 457A; Image: 561; for Angelina Ritter: Year: 1850; Census Place: Salsburg, Lehigh, Pennsylvania; Roll: M433_792; Page: 12A; Image:29; for Anna Maria Desch: Year: 1850; Census Place: Lower Macungie, Lehigh, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_792; Page: 156A;
United States 1860 Federal Census for Joel Miller: Year: 1860; Census Place: Milford, Bucks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1082; Page: 308; Image: 313; for Emma Schaffer: Year: 1860; Census Place: Bridgeton, Bucks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1082; Page: 72; Image: 77.
United States 1870 Federal Census for Tilghman P. and Rebecca Kline, as well as Emma Schaeffer: Year: 1870; Census Place: Salisbury, Lehigh, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1363; Page: 477A; Image: 182.
United States 1900 Federal Census for Daniel L. Miller: Year: 1900; Census Place: Reoder, Bucks, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1385; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0026; FHL microfilm: 1241385; for Anna Maria Desch: Year: 1900; Census Place: Lower Macungie, Lehigh, Pennsylvania; Roll: T623_31077_4115120; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0038; FHL microfilm: 1241429.
Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tradition . accessed 3 January 2016.
My thanks to Lynne Zacek Bassett; Lucinda Cawley; Russell and Corinne Earnest; Linda Moyer; Sophia Bakis of the Allentown Art Museum; the Rev. James Hammond, and Kathy Exner of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran “Blue Church” of Coopersburg, Pa.; Bob Wood, Nancy Roan, Linda Szapacs, and Alan Keyser of the Goschenhoppen Historians; Sarah Heffner, Forrest Moyer and Joel Alderfer of the Mennonite Heritage Center; Dave Luz, Hunt Schenkel and Candace Perry of the Schwenkfelder Heritage Center; Linda Eaton, Jeanne Solensky, Lauri Perkins of Winterthur.
Friendship, Fraktur, and Signature Quilts Blog Post including transcriptions; translations; and photo images © 2016 Del-Louise Moyer