The Federal Eagle Quilt
Exhibited only during the month of May!
About the Quilt
The Federal Eagle Quilt in the museum’s permanent collection, was crafted in Maryland by Anna Markey Garnhart for her first grandson, John David Markey, born in 1822. The Federal Eagle was a popular motif in the early 19th century. It was this patriotic design that Garnhart used in two of her known quilts.
The quilt came into our collection in May 1966 after the death of Geneva Covey Drake of Fargo, Okla. It had been in her possession for some time and had been made by her great-great-great grandmother. The Covey descendants generously chose to donate this family treasure to our museum realizing that with our care, it would be around for many more generations to enjoy.
The eagle has twice taken flight to Washington, D.C. for special exhibitions. The first was “Old Line Traditions: Maryland Women and Their Quilts” hosted by the D.A.R. Museum in 1985. The second exhibition was “A Family Legacy: The Quilts of Catharine Garnhart (1773-1860),” where our Eagle was displayed with eight of its sister quilts.
Most of the other Garnhart quilts stayed relatively close to Maryland, with the exception of ours, which came west with a pioneering branch of Catharine’s descendants. It first went to Iowa, then Missouri, and finally to Oklahoma following the 1893 Land Run.
An Oklahoma Quilt Historian, Dorothy Cozart, once called this quilt "one of the ten best quilts ever made in the United States... and all the rest are east of the Mississippi."
An original design, the 94” by 91” quilt features the Federal eagle in the center with 18 stars above its head. A laurel garland encircles the eagle and stars. A sunflower basket is placed at the top of the central motif, while laurel branches rest in each corner.
Each design, including the sawtooth border is reverse applique. The most amazing use of this technique is on the eagle’s chest where the individual feather scallops look like they must be satin stitch embroidery, but a close look reveals these too are cut out in reverse applique.
About the Maker
The maker of this quilt, Anna Catharine Hummel Markey Garnhart, was born in 1773 to German immigrants John and Christina Grundler Hummel. She was married for twenty-four years to David J. Markey, a veteran of the American Revolution. He died in 1820 leaving three small children. She was then married to Henry Garnhart, who died in 1825.
During her 35 years of double-widowhood, Garnhart created a matchless series of quilts, using a rare and complicated technique called reverse applique.
The ground cloth was painstakingly cut away and sewn down around each of the elaborate floral and patriotic designs, using as many as 22 stitches per inch.
Garnhart made eleven such quilts for her grandchildren, sending to Baltimore for the finest imported fabrics at $1 a yard.
Garnhart’s fantastic stitchery has been exhibited in Washington, D.C. at the Daughters of the Revolution Museum and showcased in newspapers and magazines across the nation.