Sunday, April 14, 2013

Antique Odd Fellows Quilt

Detail of center block, c. 1840

A few months ago, I happened upon a very interesting quilt with an extra unusual center block.  The auction house said it was an 'Odd Fellows' quilt.  I didn't know much about the fraternal organization but our antique quilt group on facebook quickly provided me lots of info on the symbols (iconography),  Ronda Harrell and Tim Latimer were amazingly helpful as was Ronda's 1850's manual. 
From Ronda -" Odd Fellow emblems are divided by Degrees. The emblems of the Initiatory Degree are: 1) the All-seeing Eye which symbolizes the scrutinizing gaze of Omniscience is ever upon us; 2) the Heart and the Hand which denotes candor, frankness, sincerity; 3) the three links for friendship, love and truth; 4) the Bee-Hive which denotes the power of association, order, and industry in the promotion of good works. The shining sun is an emblem of the Frist Degree which teaches impartiality in general benevolence and represents truth in its purity and glory. The emblems of the Second Degree are the arrows which to the Odd Fellow, these weapons of war are emblems of peculiar means to preserve from danger and to maintain peace. The piece which looks similar to a yoke, and the two bowls on either side of the hand is symbolic of the scales along with the crossed swords under the hand is a symbol of the Fourth Degree which represents just prudence which weighs will and truly every motive and every action and corrects every aberration from right. Finally, the crescent moon, usually seen with 7 stars, represents friendship, love and truth shining in the night of misfortune. . .  . "hour glass which is an emblem of the Royal Purple Degree. It symblolizes the speedy passage of time and admonishes us to improve the moments as they fly in a manner that shall reflect the glory of God and our own and our neighbor's good."

The center block has lots of dense quilting while the other blocks have little. 


  1. Do you know what organization the centre is for?

  2. International Order of Odd Fellows and/or their female counterpart,

  3. It's amazing how much "iconography" when into so many quilts around and before the turn of the century. I love it and am so impressed that you shared the meanings.
    Love your blog.

  4. Fascinating, Sandra. I think that it is a beautiful quilt design.

  5. We have a quilt in the MSU Museum collection that has what I call, double applique, like appears in your hand. There are some close ups. Check it out here:


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