Quilts and Stockings

Peggy W. Norris

You may wonder what quilts and stockings could possibly have to do with each other. The stockings helped to establish probable provenance for the quilt.

The Mahwah Museum Society owns a rare cut chintz appliqué quilt, the Hinsdale Tree of Life Quilt. It was startling to find it in a Bergen County museum. But not so surprising. Many people have moved into the County in the twentieth century from elsewhere in the country to take advantage of jobs, especially New York City jobs, and bringing their inherited treasures with them. No oral history came with the donation, but we did have the name of the donor and the other textiles that were donated with the quilt. Rebecca Hinsdale Kraus, 1915-2015, the mother of the donor came to New York City from North Carolina as a young woman and worked as a fashion illustrator. She eventually settle in Ridgewood, Bergen County, New Jersey. The donation included a clothing collection and included a pair of knitted silk stockings with the initials "SPA."

The hunt was on to find an ancestor with those initials. Sally Park Alexander (born Turner) qualified in that regard. Her father was James Turner, the Governor of North Carolina from 1802-1805, a U.S. Senator, and a very wealthy man. Since the style of the quilt is similar to those dated 1790-1810, I surmise that the quilt was either purchased by him or made in his household.

The style of quilt, the time period, and the place all contribute to the likelihood that the Hinsdale Tree of Life Quilt was originally owned by James Turner and his wife Eliza "Betsy" Park and descended through the female line to Rebecca Hinsdale Kraus. For more about the quilt, see the post on the Mahwah Museum blog and follow the link to the article published in Blanket Statements, the newsletter of the American Quilt Study Group and shared with permission on the Mahwah Museum website.

Silhouette of Governor James Turner

from the collections of the State Archives of North Carolina wikimedia commons

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