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Silk Sample Quilt or Comforter

ca. 1865
Origin: America, New York, Brooklyn
48 1/2" by 68 1/4" (123 x 173 cm)
Plain and patterned silks; silk ribbon; and silk tape
Gift of Graham and Sally N. Lusk in memory of Eloise Prentice Lusk
Acc. No. 1998.609.2
This is a small quilt, lap robe, or comforter pieced together from rectangular silk samples in multiple color ways, which average 2 to 3 1/2 inches wide by 5 to 9 inches long. It is held together with multicolor silk ribbons with red, blue, and black predominating. The comforter is backed with brown-and-white silk check and bound with a bright-blue silk tape.
Label:Family history states that Jemima Parmalee Prentice made this quilt from silk dress samples from her relatives' dry goods business. The comforter is tied together with multicolor ribbons that keep the layers in place. Jemima Prentice created quilts throughout much of her life. In her later years, she made and sold bed quilts, probably similar to this one, and used the profits to found Sunday schools in small villages on the edge of the American frontier. The average price for a quilt was three dollars. This comforter may be the last that Jemima pieced. A paper label once attached to the quilt records that at the age of ninety-two Jemima received help from her two daughters and daughter-in-law in the creation of it.
Provenance:The quilt was made by Jemima Prentice using sample silks from her relatives' dry goods business in Brooklyn, New York.The quilt with another (1998.609.1) descended through Jemima Parmalee Prentice's family to her great-great-grandson, who donated them to the museum. A paper label, penned by Eloise W. V. Prentice and dated October 30, 1911, once attached to the silk cover records: “This quilt given to Eloise B[?] Prentice / on her fourth birthday by her grand / mother for whom she was named. / The quilt was made in 1862 before / Eloise’s father was born – when her / great grandmother [Jemima Prentice] was 92 years old / & was tied by her grandmother – & her / two Great Aunts”.

History of quilt maker:
Jemima Parmalee Prentice (1773-1865) was a remarkable woman distinguished for her intelligence, order, hospitality, and religion. Born February 23, 1773, in Newport, New Hampshire, to Ezra and Sybil Hill Parmalee, in 1794 she married Sartell Prentice, a merchant in the fur trade. Together they had eight children, two of whom died in childhood. She created quilts throughout most of her life. A small scrap of paper in her handwriting records the astounding number of eighty quilts that she made during her lifetime. Jemima Parmalee Prentice died in Brooklyn on November 19, 1865, at the age of ninety-two. The Reverend Dr. William B. Sprague described her in his funeral sermon as a woman “of great and retentive memory, of a godly life, taken from her Bible; a habit of private devotion that nothing interfered with, useful in life, endeavoring to imitate her divine Master and of strong faith, employing her musical powers on Watts’s hymns, to relieve despondency, and all to God’s glory.”