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Appliqued Quilt Top or Tivaevae with Eagles

ca. 1908
Origin: Oceania, Polynesian Islands
OW: 99 1/4" x OH: 109 1/2"
Red and white cotton
Museum Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. T. Marshall Hahn, Jr. Fund
Acc. No. 2003.609.4
Rectangular quilt top worked in red cotton appliqued to a white cotton ground fabric. The design features an eagle in each corner spandrel with a centralized radiating compass. There is no batting or backing.
Label:The strong central pattern of a radiating compass and the peace eagle corner spandrels in this quilt top were achieved by careful folding and cutting of a solid red cotton fabric, which was then stitched or appliquéd to a white cotton ground fabric. The bold, large patterns and cutting technique reflect Hawaiian aesthetics and a strong indigenous tradition.
The quilt top descended in the family of Rear Admiral William C. Cole (1868-1935). A label written by a Cole family member and attached to the quilt top stated that it was ceremoniously draped around Cole's shoulders during a visit to Honolulu by the United States Navy in the early 20th century. Rear Admiral Cole began his career in the United States Navy in 1885 as a naval cadet, retiring in 1932 with forty-seven years of service to his country. In April of 1908, he served as lieutenant commander of the USS Kansas battleship when it toured Honolulu and several months later New Zealand where they were greeted with much fan fare. Current research by quilt specialists suggests that the quilt's family story may not be entirely accurate. A group of presentation quilt tops with American eagle motifs, similar to the ones on this piece, has been identified from eastern Polynesia. It is likely that the family remembered only part of the quilt top's story and that Rear Admiral Cole receive the quilt top while visiting New Zealand and not Honolulu.
Provenance:Purchased from Northeast Auctions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 16, 2003. The quilt top descended in the family of Rear Admiral William C. Cole (1868-1935). An inscription accompanying the quilt reads: "When Rear Admiral Wm. Carey Cole landed in Honolulu -, a Hawaiian chief draped this around his shoulders. Admiral Cole was a first cousin of my mother, Eleanor Tucker Stephens." William C. Cole (1868-1935) was a Naval Academy graduate and served with distinction in the Spanish-American War and World War I; in recognition in 1943 the naval destroyer "William Carey Cole" was launched.
Inscription(s):A label stitched to the quilt top reads: "When Rear Admiral Wm Carey Cole landed in/ Honolulu in [blank] a Hawaiian Chief/ draped this around his shoulders./ Admiral Cole was a first cousin of my mother, Eleanor Tucker Stephens."