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Fee Friendship Quilt in the Berea College History Artifacts Collection

An exploration of the friendship quilt presented to Matilda Fee by the women of West Union, Ohio in 1854

Fee Friendship Quilt 2006.32.64

The Fee Friendship Quilt is signed on the reverse with the following: "Presented to Mrs. Fee of Kentucky, by The Ladys of West Union, Ohio, 1854"  Berea founder John G. Fee moved his family to Madison County, Kentucky in the fall of 1854. Perhaps the quilt was presented to Matilda Fee in commemoration of this move. 

The quilt includes of the names of many abolitionist families from that region of Ohio.  The quilt is a prized artifact of Berea College history and a wonderful example of a pre-Civil War friendship quilt. The quilt is 91" by 89". 

What is a friendship quilt?

A friendship quilt is a unique style of quilt, usually of sentimental value, which became popular in the mid-1800s. It stems from the "Sampler Album" quilts of the same period. Sampler quilts were often used for many things, from fundraisers to political campaigns. These would have a variety of patterns and usually included written phrases, slogans, and/or names. Friendship quilts are a simpler, more personal form of these. Friendship quilts contain only one pattern. Each contributor would produce a block and then autograph it. The goal was to produce a memorable quilt, not one which showed off technical ability. This was a common type of quilt to give as a going away present, and for weddings. They became more popular as utilitarian quilting became less of a necessity, with the prominence of industrialization in the early 1900s. Due to their memorial nature they could be viewed as a precursor to other quilts, like t-shirt quilts, which are prominent gifts for graduations and other rites of passage today.