By: Dana Fobes Bowne
The textile collection of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, Washington, includes an unusual embroidered quilt. A handwritten note in its file suggests that it was made in sixteenth-century England. However, the quilt’s motifs indicate that it is more likely a seventeenthcentury Bengali quilt. This paper describes the process to determine when and where the quilt was actually made and how it came to Spokane. Research methods included examining the quilt, fiber identification, comparison with photographs of other textiles, consultations with curators, and genealogical research. The results support a seventeenth-century Bengali provenance and suggest that the quilt was probably brought to colonial Massachusetts by ancestors of the donor. It was apparently kept in the family and handed down through generations, making it likely one of the oldest surviving quilts in the United States.