Two quilted and stuffed blocks help identify this quilt; “M. L. Mc May 24th 1860” (Mary Larson McCrea) and “J Mc” (Rev. James McCrea, her husband). According to family information that accompanied the donation, a close inspection of the quilt even reveals the handprint of one of her children. Other designs in the quilting were inspired by the ferns and flowers gathered near her home.
This pieced quilt artistically embodies two quilting techniques popular in mid-nineteenth-century America: raised and ground quilting. Sixteen 10-inch blocks, pieced of plain white and printed red cottons in the “Crown” pattern, are set diagonally with elaborately quilted and stuffed plain white blocks in floral patterns. The quilt has a 9-inch border edged by two pieced sawtooth bands, the inner one of the same fabric as the pieced blocks, the outer one composed of green printed cotton. It is quilted with feathered vines. The quilting is 10 stitches per inch, all a fine tribute to Mary McCrea’s needlework and design skills.
Mary Lawson Ruth, daughter of Samuel and Margaret Ruth, was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1835. The family, like many in that period, moved to Ohio where Mary received her education and taught school at Millwood (Quaker City), Ohio. An account of Quaker City, Ohio, describes the early school, founded in 1810, as a log cabin equipped with a few books and a supply of hickory and beech switches, although by the time Mary was teaching in the 1850s the school presumably had improved.
On July 3rd, 1856, Mary married Rev. James McCrea. A white silk shawl with a white silk embroidered floral border that was worn by Mary McCrea at her wedding was included in the donation. They had seven children.
She was profiled in family information as an “accomplished needlewoman . . . proven by the exquisite stitchery in the quilt and infants’ clothing.” A baptismal gown, also part of the donation, was made for her first child, Samuel P. McCrea, born in 1857, and subsequently worn by all her children. “She made all of the clothing worn by her family including her husband [his clothes].” James McCrea was both a teacher and ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church. Mary died in December 1880 and is buried in the Murray, Indiana, cemetery. The “Crown” quilt as well as jewelry, infant apparel, and family portraits, were included in the bequest to the Smithsonian by Miss Mary E. McCrea in 1941.