Crazy Quilt Square

Probably made by Adeline Davison Downie

About 1880-1890

In the late nineteenth century, cigar smoking enjoyed unprecedented popularity. In 1885, Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Betrothed,” a poem in which—after comparing their relative merits—he chooses cigar smoking over his fiancée, declaring, “a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.” At the time, cigars were often sold in bundles wrapped with a silk ribbon bearing the brand name. According to some sources, the colorful ribbons were an ingenious marketing strategy to attract the wives of cigar smokers, who may have otherwise disapproved of their husbands’ habit. The ribbons became popular collectibles, and women sewed them into pillows, tablecloths, quilts, and even smoking jackets. This example, either intended as antimacassar—a decorative covering for protecting the back of an upholstered chair from hair oil—or a panel for a larger quilt, was likely made by the great-great-great grandmother of the donor, in what was then Washington Territory.