By: Nancilu B. Burdick
In this study of more than 30 quilts made between 1817 and 1950, largely in Western New York, an unusual variety of textiles and pieced patterns is represented. The quilts are indicative of the ingenuity and fine aesthetic sense of the women of a pioneer family who, by accident, settled in one of the loveliest regions of New York State: The Letchworth Park area.
When Julia Boyer Reinstein, a historian and Cheektowaga, New York, civic leader, donated to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society in 1987 more than 80- quilts collected over a half century, they were accompanied by the loan of an album she had painstakingly put together, picturing the quilts and noting the provenance and makers of most of them.
My study has been done over a period of eight months in interviews with Julia, in photographing and examining quilts (and family pictures of some of the makers) remaining in Julia’s home, and in a close study of her quilts in the Buffalo Historical Society’s collection. The family quilts in particular constitute an unusual record of the accomplishments and tastes of women of a European-American family over a 150-year period in a specific area of Western New York. My study reinforces the notion of enduring strengths and values passed on in the women from generation to generation through the handing down of their handmade quilts.