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Home | Articles | What is it Worth?—Patriotic Quilts

Cotton Quilt
Maryland, Virginia
Dated: 1942
Value: More than $10,000
“This quilt has it all,” says Stella Rubin. “It has flags, eagles, ‘U.S.A.,’ ‘liberty,’ every patriotic motif you can think of. While a visually pleasing combination is always desirable, people are looking for the images, not necessarily how they are arranged.” This quilt is also beautifully quilted, with fine, tight stitching and a central motif surrounded by a stitched frame—very labor- intensive. The pristine condition also contributes to its high value. This patriotic quilt is a bit more unusual than most in that it is not the traditional red, white, and blue, but is worked in maroon, orange, and blue: “One can only speculate as to the reasons for the particular color selection,” says Rubin. While unusual, this does not add to or decrease the value, but it does make the quilt a bit more interesting. Courtesy of Stella Rubin; photography by Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques/With All Due Ceremony.

Symbols of national pride are a part of this country’s decorative heritage. Since the early nineteenth century, American women have been fashioning quilts with images now commonly associated with independence and patriotism. “In the early nineteenth century, one starts seeing eagles and shields in quilts,” says Maryland antiques dealer Stella Rubin. Called “patriotic quilts,” these handmade textiles are extremely desirable today, with prices starting at $1,000 and going well into five figures. As Rubin notes, “Unlike other types of quilts, which can vary depending on fashions, patriotic quilts will always have value.”

Typically made from cotton fabric, the quilts feature pieced patterns of literal or stylized flags, eagles, political sayings, stars, and the like. Rubin recently sold a Civil War–era, cot-size quilt that she guesses a mother made for her son to take to war. The cotton quilt features a flag in the center as well as inked sayings such as “Rally Round the Flag Boys.” Around the time of the Centennial, in 1876, there were many quilts made using any number of printed fabrics with images of George Washington; among them, Washington astride a prancing horse or simply with his face on a cartouche. In addition to the Civil War and the Centennial, other recorded events include the times when a state entered the Union, political campaigns, and both world wars. “One sees an abundance of patriotic quilts made at times of national threat or celebration,” says Rubin.

Cotton Quilt
World War I Era
Value: Approx. $1,000
This vintage quilt is also in pristine condition. Among the reasons for a lesser price is that it has basic versus remarkable quilting: The stitching is much less fine overall than its higher-priced counterpart, with larger stitches and a simpler pattern of quilting, using straight lines versus decorative elements. In addition, rather than each star being individually appliquéd, each is preprinted on the fabric. The design is also rather straightforward. “The composition lacks a
certain gracefulness,” says Rubin, “although it is still
a wonderful quilt.” The flags depicted on the quilt have forty-eight stars, suggesting the quilt could date from anywhere between 1912 and 1959, although Rubin believes it dates from the World War I era.
Courtesy of Stella Rubin.

Women also made quilts that symbolized their own patriotic sentiments. “Before women had the vote in 1920, they didn’t have an official avenue for voicing their views,” notes Rubin, “and quilting provided a means to an end.” Quilt displays at agricultural fairs, for example, offered prime opportunities for a woman to express her opinions.

Rubin groups some fund-raising quilts under the larger patriotic-quilt category as well, because they often included national symbols worked into the quilt alongside sayings, political handkerchiefs, and candidate’s photos.


Condition, quality of workmanship, age, provenance, and pattern all affect the price of a patriotic quilt. Rubin notes, though, that each quilt is really a one-of-a-kind object, so it can be hard to generalize. Here are two vintage patriotic quilts that span from good (about $1,000) to outstanding (more than $10,000), and the reasons why.

Suggested Reading

Rubin, Stella. Miller’s Treasure or Not? How to Compare & Value American Quilts (Miller’s-Mitchell Beazley, 2001).

Jill Connors is a freelance writer based in Middletown, Rhode Island, who specializes in collecting, interior design, and decorative arts. A former editor of This Old House magazine, her freelance work appears in such magazines as Antiques Extra, Country Home, and Homestyle.

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