By: Kathryn Ledbetter
This essay evaluates two rare and historically important textiles within the rapidly changing environment of print production and American identity-building efforts during the Mexican War era (1846-1848). A whole-cloth comforter in the Winedale Quilt Collection of the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin and a whole-cloth chintz quilt at the Winterthur Museum made from similar textile designs exemplify the ways artifacts encode symbolic and iconic myths of American ideals of freedom, ingenuity, courage, and nation-building. They also demonstrate the interdependent relationships that textiles, books, pictures, and printed objects of all kinds had with sensational newspaper reportage and political campaigns of the period. In displaying images copied from lithographs of one of the first American victories of the Mexican War on May 9, 1846, the Winedale comforter and the Winterthur quilt joined with other printed matter in articulating evolving notions of what it meant to be a citizen of the United States.