The Hollingsworth Quilt

The following article is taken from the Spring 2009 edition of “Hollingsworth Heritage”, Descendants of Valentine Hollingsworth, Sr. Society (DVHSS).  The newsletter documents and chronicles family history, genealogy, and stories. The article describes a quilt that was found, and won at an auction, by a member of the DVHSS.  The quilt bears the names of several Hollingsworth family members.  As with quilt making of the time, quilts were valuable relics of family history and were often passed down from one generation to the next.  It’s was common to have several family members and friends contribute to making the quilt.  This is a significant piece of Hollingsworth family history.  DVHSS was looking for an appropriate organization to donate and care for the quilt.  We’re thrilled that the Historic Elk Landing Foundation was chosen, and we graciously accepted, the invitation.  

Society Purchases Hollingsworth Quilt at Auction

by Susan Aggarwal


Hollingsworth Heritage, Volume XV, Number 4

Spring 2009

In April, a friend of mine notified me that she saw a "Hollingsworth" quilt for sale at a local auction house in Pennsylvania. I went by to see it and was thrilled to see sixteen signatures on it. There is not much information about it except that a dealer bought it from a Hollingsworth family in Baltimore. I don't know if the family still retained the name. They like to keep these things confidential.


It is called a Baltimore Album Quilt and is considered rare because it is usually a family quilt possibly made to give to someone for a special occasion. Most of these were done in the Maryland area. The quilt looks dirty because there is oxidation (discoloration) of the fabric. It may be possible to restore the fabric. But one never knows if it will be successful until you try it. Besides the regular quilting, there is applique and trapunto work as well.

As best I can read them, the following signatures and dates are on the quilt:
          Rachel Hollingsworth, 1845
          Emily J. Parkinson, April 1846
          Cynthia Parkinson
          Amy Benson
          Lovona L. Benson, January 15. 1846
          Rebecca S. Hollingsworth
          Susan W. Hollingsworth, 1846 (or 1848)
          HJ Morrison
          Elizabeth Harlan
          Elizabeth T (or F) Benson. Bower, or Brown (It’s really unreadable.)
          Margaret Hollingsworth. 1844
          Margaret Benson. 1845 (or 1846)
          Martha Griffith
          Hannah Ann Harlan, 1844
          Mary D. Bolling. Boligal (indecipherable. With something below like “Baltimore’)
          Mary Benson, 1845
         On one of the blocks (squares), there is a series of numbers and 1845.

Based on my rudimentary research in Stewart's, Susan W.7 and Rebecca S.7 are daughters of Roberts of Nathaniel5 of Thomas4 of Thomas3 of Thomas2 of Valentine, Sr.1 Their brother Henry7 married Emily Parkinson of Baltimore. Robert6s brother John6 married Rachel Benson.

I have been in contact with the Harford Co. (Maryland) Historical Society, where these people lived, and they tell me that besides Hollingsworth, Benson and Harlan are well known names in that area. Does anyone have information on these family members?

For those of you who have bid for things at auctions, I'm sure this is old hat. But this was the first time I had done this, and I did it by phone. They called me as the time drew near. and I was able to bid through the person at the other end of the phone line at the auction. It was all quite exciting and tense as I was unable to see who else was bidding. I was thrilled when they said I had won at a very nice price  Since then, I have done some research and found not only was it a bargain, but a treasure as well.

Since making the winning bid, I took the quilt to a friend who exhibits at the Chester County Antiques Show. Her specialty is samplers, but she certainly recognized the names. She called in an expert, with whom I had left a message already, and both of them looked at it.  She is an expert in textiles and loved the fabrics. She recognized two or three as being French. She said most of the patterned fabrics were imported from Europe at that time except for maybe gingham.

She called it a Baltimore Album quilt. This is because all the squares are different and done by a variety of people. Both of them agreed that the backing had been put on at a later time. They could tell by the size of the thread and the stitching. They did not think the pieces had been separated and re-stitched together at a later time, only the backing. It is possible that the quilt was pieced but never backed originally.

She said that the horse and rider are often a symbol of the Mexican-American war (1846¬-1848), which was the very time this quilt was made. This rider is a hunter with pheasant or geese on his rifle. They didn't recognize it as a symbol of a county or family crest.

Both agreed that the quilt has never been washed. They can tell because the polish is still on the fabric. However, it might have been spot cleaned in a couple of places. which only added to the bleeding of some of the fabrics.

It was suggested that if we are donating it to a museum, we should not have it cleaned. She was amazed that we were able to win it at auction! This is a person who buys and sells these as a business.

She told me about a group called the Baltimore Appliqué Society. which is compiling a list of names on Maryland quilts. She said they would love to see it and might even want to document the fabrics. They actually match the fabrics to fabrics used in other quilts.

I then received a call from the director of the Harford County (Maryland) Historical Society. They are just north of Baltimore, and it is where I suspect the quilt was made, as a number of family members resided there at the right time. She gave me the name of a woman in New Jersey that they used to evaluate their quilt collection a couple of years ago. They were quite impressed with her. This will give us another opinion.

She asked me to send her the names on the quilt. They have a genealogist who can do some research on the families. It might cost us to do more in-depth research.

Coincidentally, I was told that a DVHSS member, the daughter of Lydia Eliza (Hollingsworth) Thomas, donated something of her mother’s when her mother died at 106 last year (see Hollingsworth Heritage of Fall 2008, p. 32, for Lydia's obituary). Lydia was born in Flarford Co. This means at the 3rd or 4th-great level, the daughter is related to some of the folks on the quilt.

The society plans to donate this quilt to an appropriate organization.  I will be bringing it to the reunion in Greenesboro for all to see.

For more information, here are some interesting websites:

Luckily, the quilt now resides in the care of the Historic Elk Landing Foundation where we can unite this unique Hollingsworth heirloom with Hollingsworth history at Elk Landing. 


The quilt is displayed on special occasions in the Hollingsworth House.  Please stop by and see other Historic Elk Landing artifacts in the 2nd floor museum room.


Please contact us for a visit.


Don’t forget our special open house on July 10th, from 10 am - 1 pm.  No appointment is necessary!