In the main room of the Common Indecency exhibit is a stunning yet often overlooked object, the quilt covering the bed. This particular object is not only a historical artifact, but also a work of art. Its swirling shapes and intricate needle work suggest that the women who made it were artists, not simply making the quilt to keep them warm at night. The quilt is made of polychrome silk and velvet, with sturdy silk thread tying together the haphazard shapes and colors of the quilt. It is roughly 164 square centimeters, and is made using a “Japanese Fan” pattern of chunky circles and bright colors.
This type of quilt was made in the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s, and is known as a “Crazy Quilt.” Many American women were caught up in this raging fad, and all the popular women’s magazines of the time offered new patterns and tips as to making your very own Crazy Quilt. Crazy Quilts were originally intended for only wealthy people, made with fancy silk and expensive velvet, but the fad soon caught everyone, and the quilts were made of all sorts of different and less expensive materials. Crazy Quilts were meant to be creative and different from the highly organized quilts made before. Women loved the idea of cutting up asymmetrical shapes and putting them together to form abstract shapes and quilts. Although these particular styles of quilts may look haphazard, the makers always planned out the quilt in advance, and sometimes tried many ways before landing the right one.
The Crazy Quilt was just another way for women to show off their prowess, but this time it was in sewing and their brilliant needle skills. There was a great variety in Crazy Quilts, as each woman wanted to bring their own special skills to the quilt. Women used intricate stitches to hold the pieces together, and sometimes embroidered small motifs or names onto the quilts that they made. Stitches had interesting and mystifying names like herringbone, feather, and chain.
The quilt on display now was made by Caroline Perkins Blunt Kimball and her mother, Jane Blunt, sometime in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Jane lived from 1862-1927. There is a very old Blunt family history in Andover, though it is not certainly Jane and Caroline’s family. If they had, in fact, been part of the original Blunt family of Andover, then their family name goes quite a long way back. The first Blunt in Andover was William Blunt, who moved to Andover from England in 1634, and had many descendants in Andover, one of which could be the women who made the quilt. William Blunt, also known as William Blount, was part of an archaic English and European family, who was descended from royalty.
The Blount family in Europe was descended from Emperor Charlemange, and included royalty like Emperor Louis the First, King Harold of Denmark, Alfred the Great, who was the first king of England, and many other Lords, Barons, and Counts of Europe. If they ladies who made the quilt were descended from the Blounts, then that quilt is very special indeed. The Blount/Blunt family was famous both in Europe and in America, when they later moved to New England headed by William Blunt. Sir Walter Blount in England was killed in the famous Battle of Shrewsbury, and made immortal in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1. Another Blunt, Captain Jonathan Blunt of Portsmouth, was the navigator standing in front of the boat in the well known painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”
All in all, the quilt made by Jane and Caroline is almost as rich and vibrant as the history of the Blunt family from which they may have been descended. If only each polka dotted or richly embroidered section could speak, and tell us the unknown and mysterious stories of a family as old and interesting as the Blunts.