Autograph Quilt Exhibit at Bethel Historical Society
People coming out for Mollyockett Days this weekend will find a quilt exhibit “Full of Memory and Sentiment” at the Bethel Historical Society, next to the common.
And in August, BHS will offer a special appraisal program for those interested in learning about the history of quilting and about quilts they may own personally.
The exhibit features 11 local autograph, or “friendship” quilts, which gained popularity in the 1840s.
The quilts displayed range in age from 28 to 164 years.
As described in the exhibit, “as documents of remembrance, these ‘scraps of calico’ emerged from an earlier 19th century practice in New England of keeping bound albums, where women collected favorite quotations, expressions of love and concern, and — most importantly — the signatures of close friends and relatives.
“Typically, patchwork blocks of similar size and design were signed by friends and relatives of the quilt's recipient. At other times, as demonstrated by several quilts in this short-term exhibition, these ‘precious reliquaries’ were assembled as neighborhood or church fundraisers, with contributors' names recorded by someone with handwriting skill and a steady hand.”
Among the quilts on display are an 1848 quilt made by the ladies of the West Bethel Church; a quilt by Esther Smith Searle of Newry, made between 1875 and 1885, containing the names of men and women from Newry, Hanover, Grafton and North Bethel; and a quilt from the Sunday River Valley, ca. 1890, with names of Newry, Riley Plantation and Bethel people.
The display represents only about 20 percent of the quilts owned by BHS.
“As part of our ongoing effort to locate, describe, photograph and re-catalog the Bethel Historical Society’s collections so they can be shared online, we discovered that we now own over 50 locally-made quilts, many dating before 1900,” said BHS Executive Director Randy Bennett. “Since only a few of these are ever on display at one time in our period house museum, and our holdings include a number of high-quality signature or album quilts, we decided to display 10 of the most interesting examples of these autograph quilts in a new exhibit at the Robinson House.”
For those who may not get to BHS this weekend, the exhibit will run through Oct. 5. Go to www.bethelhistorical.org for more information.
The Aug. 16 program, entitled “100 Years of American Quilts,” will feature quilt appraiser Bonnie Dwyer of Manchester. Certified as an appraiser by the American Quilter’s Society, she will review quilting trends in the U.S., with examples of 19th-to mid-20th century quilts. Dwyer, a fourth-generation quilter, will bring two dozen quilts from her own collection, but she encourages participants to bring their own for discussion.
Before and after the program Dwyer will conduct 20-minute appraisals by appointment at a cost of $50 for a written appraisal and $25 for a verbal. For more on Dwyer, go to www.bonniedwyer.com.