Local Historical Context

The origin of the crazy quilt is unclear. Though the donor is identified as Louise Beck, no additional documentation indicates whether the quilt was a family heirloom. Beck had the means to purchase luxury items, so the possibility that she selected an art object for aesthetic reasons cannot be overlooked. But the quilting traditions of Pennsylvania,1 and the importance of fancywork in Victorian era households, should not be dismissed. In proposing Louise Beck’s mother, Margaret, as the creator of the crazy quilt, I will engage in a mental exercise which reveals something about Philadelphia neighborhoods, gender, and class in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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