The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 6, 2009

Quilts: A study in genealogy


The Donehower name written on the quilt could be a part of the three generations of Donehowers who previously operated W.L. Donehower, a store on Market Street in Lewisburg, for 132 years.

Although the exact meaning and special event surrounding the creation of this quilt has yet to be discovered, Burnham has speculated the quilt dates to about 1900 because “1885 was the centennial of Lewisburg’s founding and (it) could have been made around that occasion. Or maybe it was a turn-of-the-century quilt. When things settle down, we are going to try to do some more in-depth research.”

The quilt exhibit

“When the Pennsylvania Germans immigrated here, they did not make quilts. They used woven coverlets, but they saw their English neighbors quilting, and they were influenced by that,” Burnham said.

Both the Pennsylvania English and German quilt makers had their own sense of style and taste of colors. According to Burnham, the English preferred using blue and the Germans “brought an emphasis on color ... a brighter, more vibrant color scheme.” A German quilt of pink and green and an English quilt with blue and white are displayed side-by-side in the exhibit, illustrating the similarities and differences in the two styles.

Another quilt on display may represent the quilt maker’s economic situation or a special time in their life. The quilt is made out of reds, yellows, greens and purples, but the colors are not distributed equally or symmetrically.

The purple appears heavily in the bottom corners of the quilt but isn’t as evident in the upper corners. This could possibly mean that the quilt maker ran out of resources to purchase the purple fabric or the purple patches may symbolize a person, place or thing, Burnham said.

The unevenness of the purple patch is one of the many mysteries a quilt can disguise which can only be discovered through study and public participation.

“We would like people to come and tell us about our quilts,” Burnham said.

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