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Betsy Totten's "Rising Sun" Quilt


Thread, cotton, silk, fabric

"Rising Sun" or "Star of Bethlehem" refers to the quilt pattern. Betsy Totten of Staten Island, New York, willed this quilt to her grandniece, Ellen Totten Butler, in 1861.

NMAH TE.T08153     Gift of Marvel Mildred Matthes

Welcome to Covering America: The Textile Heritage of 19th-Century Quilts, an exhibit curated from the National Museum of American History's National Quilt Collection. Covering America aims to further the NMAH's mission by illuminating the rich textile heritage of 19th-century Americans. The quilts highlighted by this exhibit are rarely on public display and, as such, often go undiscovered by traditional museum visitors. Covering America explores and shares an important element of American material history that has been carefully and thoughtfully preserved and protected in the vast archival collections of the NMAH.

The National Quilt Collection's origins date back to the 1890s. It has now grown to include more than 500 quilts and represents Americans from all walks of life. Covering America will examine only those created between 1800 and 1899. By combining images of the quilts with stories of their creators and placing them within the related historical context, this exhibit hopes to educate, entertain, and inspire.

Please visit the NMAH's National Quilt Collection website for more information on the full collection.

[Bibliography: National Museum of American History. National Quilt Collection. Object Groups. Accessed October 17, 2022.]   


Instructions for Patchwork: A New Book of Patterns and Instructions for Making Fancy Patchwork



This book was published in 1884 and features instructions for sewing fancy patterns on quilts and other items.

LOC 08028150     Published by Wyncoop & Hallenbeck of New York

Covering America: The Textile Heritage of 19th-Century Quilts will explore three groupings of quilts:

  • "Fabric Lessons: The Influence of Children & Youth" examines the role children and youth played in the creation of crib quilts and decorative pieces used for educational purposes. It will also feature a quilt created by a 16 year old slave girl.
  • "TEXTiles: Women Tell Their Story" explores how women used their quilts to gain a voice in an era in which they rarely moved outside the domestic sphere. Examples include a piece created after the death of a loved one and another painted in support of prohibition.
  • "Creations for a Cause: Commemorative Quiltmaking" highlights quilts sewn or stitched for commemorative purposes or with patriotic sentiments. Two highly represented periods in commemorative quiltmaking are the Civil War years (1861-1865) and the 1876 Centennial.