1876 Ellen Harding Baker's "Solar System" Quilt

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 3/28/2012

This "Solar System" quilt was made by Ellen Harding Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, in 1876. The wool top of this applique quilt is embellished with wool-fabric applique, wool braid, and wool and silk embroidery. Included in the design is the appliqued inscription, "Solar System," and the embroidered inscriptions, "E. H. Baker" and "A. D. 1876." The lining is a red cotton-and-wool fabric and the filling is of cotton fiber.

The maker, Sarah Ellen Harding, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1847, and married Marion Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, on October 10, 1867. They lived in Cedar County until 1878, and then moved to Johnson County, where Marion had a general merchandise business in Lone Tree. Ellen had seven children before she died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1886.

The design of Ellen's striking and unusual quilt resembles illustrations in astronomy books of the period. Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the nineteenthth century and was sometimes even fostered in their education.

Measurements: overall: 89 in x 106 in; 225 cm x 269 cm

Maker(s): quilter: Baker, Ellen Harding

Date Made: 1876

Place Made: United States: Iowa

Credit Line: Gift of Patricia Hill McCloy and Kathryn Hill Meardon

Object ID: 1983.0618.01

Division: Division of Home and Community Life

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