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Missouri Bicentennial Quilt Reveals Stories And Histories From Across The State

Each patchwork block represents one of the state's 114 state counties, plus the City of St. Louis.
State Historical Society of Missouri
Each patchwork block represents one of the state's 114 state counties, plus the City of St. Louis.

The Field House Museum boasts a wide collection of quilts on display, ranging from 19th-century creations to more modern quilts. Now one final quilt completes the collection: the MO Bicentennial Quilt.

The Field House Museum currently boasts a wide collection of quilts on display, ranging from 19th-century creations to more modern quilts. Last week, one final quilt completed the collection: the Missouri Bicentennial Quilt.

A partnership between the State Historical Society of Missouri, Missouri Star Quilt Co. and Missouri State Quilters Guild, the quilt showcases the unique characteristics of Missouri culture and style. Each patchwork block represents one of the state’s 114 counties, plus the City of St. Louis.

“We just think of quilts as bed covers, but they really are an art form. Not only is there care and consideration taken into making them, but also [with] what is depicted in them,” Stephanie Bliss told St. Louis on the Air. “And I think that we sometimes lose track that quilts speak volumes, even though it's just a simple piece of cloth.”

Bliss is the executive director of the Field House Museum, where the Missouri Bicentennial Quilt made its debut in St. Louis last Thursday. The quilt has been traveling the state as part of Missouri bicentennial commemorations.

Bliss joined Monday’s program to talk about the display.

“There are some that are very simplistic … [and] some that really went all out and really represented the area in why it's important,” she said. “One of the fun ones I didn't know [is] in Pulaski County, there's Frog Rock. It's a site on Route 66, and people stop there all the time to get their picture taken with Frog Rock. Not only is it a cool artwork, but it's a way of learning.”

The program included comments from Janet Foss, a member of a local quilt club called the Missouri River Quilters. She submitted the patchwork block that represents St. Charles County. It’s titled “Confluence of the Great Rivers Block” and showcases the meeting point of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

“The rivers have been here long before man, probably. The native peoples of our state and region used the rivers. The rivers have been a water source, a food source, a transportation source; it drew immigrants to our country and to our area. A lot of German immigrants came to Missouri because of the Missouri River and the Mississippi River. Those rivers reminded them of the Rhine River and other rivers back in their homeland,” Foss explained.

On the St. Louis block, quilter Linda Roberts stitched “In the city of St. Louis” in Braille to represent the Missouri State School for the Blind. It was the first educational institution to adopt Braille and home of the first Braille printing press.

Susan Busch quilted the St. Louis County block and chose to represent Grant’s Farm.

“[It’s] obviously a great historic site, not necessarily just for the city and the county or the state, but actually nationally. It's one of the national parks in St. Louis, the former home of Ulysses S. Grant,” Bliss noted.

Now through Sept. 17, visitors and quilt enthusiasts can learn about what all the quilt showcases at the Field House Museum. It’s the only site in the St. Louis area to host the quilt while it journeys across Missouri.

Foss added this detail about the craft of stitching quilts:

“The art of quilting is alive and well. It is not just something that a group of senior citizens are doing in the church basement once a month. Today's quilters span all age groups — many young women and also a few men are taking up quilting every day. Mothers and grandmothers are teaching their daughters and granddaughters the art of quilting, [and] quilt shops seem to be thriving.”

Related Event

What: “Stitching Stories from the Past” exhibit featuring the Missouri Bicentennial Quilt

When: Now through Sept. 17

Where: The Field House Museum (634 S. Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Lara Hamdan
News intern
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