The whole-cloth quilt was made by Anna Moore Hubbell (1793-1861), the daughter of Judge Pliny Moore of Champlain and wife of Julius C. Hubbell of Chazy. Unlike the patchwork quilts (made of many small pieces of material sewn together) that became common later in the 19th century, this quilt is made of just one fabric—and it’s a very unusual textile with an interesting history of its own.
Textile historian Whitney A. J. Robertson has written about this pattern, which is known as “The Apotheosis of Franklin and Washington,” and is one of the most common textiles of its kind to appear in museum collections. You can find it in at least 18 different places, including Colonial Williamsburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Old Sturbridge Village, and the Winterthur Museum. As Robinson notes, it’s hard to say “whether this fabric is so ubiquitous because of its popularity during its own time, its appeal to collectors in the 19th and 20th centuries or both,” but I think it’s easy to see why many people might have been attracted to its wealth of patriotic imagery.
Robertson explains that patterned cotton and linen bed furnishings became popular in Britain in the 17th century as washable, inexpensive alternatives to wool and silk. These early fabrics were printed with wood blocks; initially they were imported from India and later were produced domestically. In 1752, Francis Nixon of the Drumcondra Printworks in Ireland figured out how to use the copperplate printing technique used on paper to produce patterns on textiles. Copperplate printing allowed for more detail and larger pattern repeats than wood-block printing, though it was limited to a single color.
Copperplate-printed fabrics, also known as “toiles,” frequently borrowed designs directly from existing engravings. Pastoral scenes and landscapes were common, as were political and military subjects. Many of these fabrics were made by British and French manufacturers specifically for the export market. This market really boomed after the Revolution—American industry wasn’t advanced enough to produce these textiles, but English tradesmen realized that there was a good deal of money to be made in providing fashionable and patriotic materials to Americans.
So how did Anna Hubbell come to make this quilt? Because she signed it with her married name, we know she must have made it some time after her marriage in January 1812—probably many years after this textile was first produced and became fashionable. A label attached to the quilt gives us some clues. According to the writer of the label, the quilt was taken from a bed in the home of Pliny Moore by M. A. Mygatt—presumably Anna and Julius’s daughter Martha Anne Mygatt (Martha’s daughter Isabella donated it to Alice Miner). There is also a barely legible line that says something about “bed curtains.”
Did Pliny Moore once have an entire set of bed furnishings made from this textile? Moore permanently settled in Champlain in 1789 and built a fine Federal-style house in 1801. He is said to have owned the first piano in Champlain, and he sent his daughter Anna to Litchfield Female Academy, one of the most important institutions for women’s education in the early republic. As a wealthy landowner, judge, and Revolutionary War veteran, he was just the sort of person one might expect to purchase a fashionable toile like “The Apotheosis of Franklin and Washington.” Champlain may have been considered the frontier in those days, but clearly its residents were aware of the latest styles in furnishings.
Whitney A. J. Robertson, “Sleeping Amongst Heroes: Copperplate-printed Bed Furniture in the ‘Washington and American Independance [sic] 1776; the Apotheosis of Franklin’ Pattern,” Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Paper 739, 2012.
Walter Hubbell, History of the Hubbell Family (New York, 1915).
Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York (Philadelphia, 1880).
Nell Jane Barnett Sullivan and David Kendall Martin, A History of the Town of Chazy (Burlington, 1970).
Litchfield Historical Society, Ledger of Students at the Litchfield Law School and the Litchfield Female Academy.
Interpretive panel about Pliny Moore’s home in Champlain.