Quilts & Coverlets
REITER FAMILY ALBUM QUILT
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- Artist unidentified; descended in the family of Katie Friedman Reiter (1873–1942) and Liebe Gross Friedman (dates unknown)
- Probably Baltimore
- c. 1848–1850
- Cotton and wool
- 101 x 101 in.
- Gift of Katherine Amelia Wine in honor of her grandmother Theresa Reiter Gross and the makers of the quilt, her great-grandmother Katie Friedman Reiter and her great-great-grandmother Liebe Gross Friedman, and on behalf of a generation of cousins: Sydney Howard Reiter, Penelope Breyer Tarplin, Jonnie Breyer Stahl, Susan Reiter Blinn, Benjamin Joseph Gross, and Leba Gross Wine, 2000.2.1
- The Reiter quilt descended with a strong family history that has been reassessed because of recent research. For generations it was believed that the quilt was made as an act of mourning in the 1890s by Katie Friedman Reiter and her mother, Liebe Gross Friedman, both of whom had lost a child within a short period of time. The women were born in Slovakia and lived through economic depression and rampant anti-Semitism in eastern Europe. In 1885, Liebe sent 12-year-old Katie to America in the belief that the New World would offer greater opportunities for a better life. In 1890, after living for five years with relatives in Newark, New Jersey, Katie married and moved to the steel town of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Reasonably comfortable financially, Katie was able to send for her mother, her sister, Amelia, and her brother, Ephraim, in 1891. Katie’s infant son, Adolph, died later that year, and, Ephraim drowned in the Youghiogheny River shortly thereafter. The equestrian figure in black was thought to represent the deceased children—Reiter means “rider” in German. The rider has since been identified as Mexican War hero Captain Samuel H. Walker. Although the family who donated this quilt to the museum believed that it was made in Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century, research has shown that it is in fact one of a group of album quilts, some almost identical to this example, that was made in the mid-nineteenth century by women who were members of a Hebrew congregation in Baltimore. These quilts are very similar to the well-known Baltimore-style album quilts associated with the Protestant churches of the city, but they often incorporate motifs and fabrics familiar to their makers from their Central European Jewish traditions.
- Photo by John Parnell