Mary Jane Smith and Mary Morrell Smith
Log Cabin Quilt, Barn Raising Variation
Quilts like this one take their title from their composition of repeated small squares resembling log cabins, constructed of a series of interconnected strips, or “logs,” organized around a central patch representing a hearth. Their popularity in the United States dates to the second half of the 19th century. Having become fashionable during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, they have been speculatively associated with symbolism of the Union or Republican party loyalties.
Quilts are intimate objects, often made at pivotal moments during an individual’s life. They tell stories about birth, death, and personal relationships. This particular example was created in the early 1860s for the wedding trousseau of Mary Jane Smith. Sadly, the young woman would never marry her fiancé, Ephraim Gladfelter, who died of pneumonia prior to their marriage. She followed him to the grave just three years later, still unwed. The quilt was passed down in Smith’s family, and survives as a token of Mary Jane and Ephraim’s truncated biographies.