1856 Huguenot Friendship Quilt Revisited

By: Kay Triplett
Golden, Colorado

Friendship quilts and Album quilts were big trends in the mid-1800s in part because of the westward migration, but because of the sentimental trend of collecting autographs in personal albums. What makes this quilt a bit unusual is its association with Historic Huguenot Street, a settlement near New Paltz, New York that has preserved their houses, history, and papers for hundreds of years after being settled in 1677. Many of the names on this quilt are people who lived in these houses, their friends and neighbors. The material culture related to this society is extensive.

The families involved with this quilt were originally French, but left France for the Netherlands seeking religious freedom when Protestants were persecuted at home. When the Dutch claimed land in the “New World” they founded New Netherlands which eventually became New York. They experienced life on the frontier, unfriendly encounters with Native Americans, the Revolutionary War, and the formation of our new country. Re-enactors still set up camp on the DuBois Fort lawn. This family is predominantly found in the names on the quilt. They dealt with the issues of slavery, and among the direct descendants is W.E.B DuBois who was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard and co-founded the NAACP. There are many other famous branches of the family. Visit the Huguenot Street website to learn more about the Dubois family (www.huguenotstreet.org/dubois).

I first selected this quilt when I added it to The Poos Collection. I also selected it for Pioneer Quilts: Prairie Settlers’ Life in Fabric – Over 30 Quilts from the Poos Collection. The appliqué was simple in one way – no layering, solid fabrics, small blocks, limited colors. In another way, it was extremely complex. There are many blocks with intricate and difficult cutwork – very thin veins in leaves or spaces between petals, tiny berries, etc.