Quilt of the Month


May 2009

May 2009

Broken Circle (New York Beauty).
Maker unknown
Possibly made in Pennsylvania or Maryland, 1880-1900
79" x 83.5"
IQSC 2003.003.0153
The Jonathan Holstein Collection, including the 1971 Whitney Museum Exhibition Quilts
American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940 Exhibition

Reminiscent of the regular, jagged edges of motorized gears, the quarter-circle fans of this quilt echo one of the major themes of the era that were the focus of our book and exhibition, "American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940": mechanization and technological progress.

Block-style quilts such as this are symbols of the Modern Age in yet another way: their proliferation was largely due to the growing availability of inexpensive fabric and sewing machines after the Civil War. The long seams joining the blocks together were much more efficiently and quickly done on a machine than by hand.

The basic fan design of this block has long been a challenge to the expert piecer, whether working by hand or machine. When the block is sashed with complex pieced or appliqued strips, it is known today as New York Beauty or Rocky Mountain; but this simpler version, a block isolated by broad blue bars, was called Broken Circle or Suspension Bridge in the 1933 Ladies Art Company catalog--a standard pattern source during the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s.