By: Ronda McAllen
Album quilts produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1840s and 1850s are among the most elaborate examples of nineteenth-century quiltmaking. Previous research linked these quilts to quiltmakers of the Methodist and German Reform faiths. New research, however, suggests a group of these remarkable quilts were owned and may have been created by Jewish women who had recently emigrated from Germany. Given these women’s origins, closed culture, and lack of exposure to American needlework traditions, these quilts have important implications for the study of cultural transmission and represent a significant historical discovery. The quiltmakers incorporated motifs and fabrics familiar to the Jewish women from their Central European Jewish traditions, which were rarely found on Protestant album quilts. This group of Baltimore album quilts needs to be studied in the context of the culture from which they arose and the genre they represent to understand their place in quiltmaking and American history.