Hartsfield Family Quilt Exhibit

The Hartsfield Family Quilt Collection dates from the time of slavery. 

Explore the Exhibit Online 

Click the arrows to the left and right of the images to scroll through the exhibit. If the arrows can't be viewed on your screen, navigate using the dot grid below the image. 

Want to learn more about the Hartsfield Family Quilt Collection? Watch the interview with Jim Tharpe. 

Read the story of the Hartsfield Family Quilt Collection in Jim Tharpe's book, currently for sale online

 
Man and woman of color standing next to a Singer sewing machine in front of two quilts.

Tharpe Family with Family Sewing Machine - Jim Tharpe's mother, her mother's picture and one of the oldest quilts in the collection. The Tharpe family sewing machine was purchased in 1947.

Man of color in a chair smiling outside on a porch with a quilt in the background.

Jim Tharpe and Quilt - Jim Tharpe, keeper of the Hartsfield Family Quilt Collection, with Country Roads Quilt in the backgroud.

close-up of multicolored quilt with a diamond-pattern pannel at the top, a flowered stripe in the middle, and a cross and diamond pattern in the lower pannel.

Detail, Country Roads Quilt, 19th Century - “Bow Tie (or Hourglass): A symbol indicating it was necessary to travel in disguise or to change from the clothing of a slave to that of a person of higher status.” (Tharpe)

Close-up of quilt with panels in bold solid colors and crossroads patterns.

Detail, Crossroads Quilt, 19th Century - Quilt with a "Crossroads" pattern, made in the 19th century.

Close-up photo of a panel with white diamonds on a plaid background.

Detail, Checkerboard Patchwork Quilt, c. 19th century - “Crossroads: A symbol referring to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the main crossroads with several routes to freedom. On a lesser level, the term ‘crossroads’ also means reaching a turning point in one’s life, where a choice must be made and then carry on.” -- Tharpe

Red and white patterned quilt in which diamond shapes merge to form triangles and other shapes.

The Railroad Crossing. c. 19th century - “Bear’s Paw: Follow the mountain trail, out of vie, and then follow an actual bear’s trail which would lead to water and food.” -- Tharpe

Quilt with four panels connected to a small panel at the center, with diamond-patterned fabric strips creating a strong "X" pattern against a softer flowery background.

Detail, Country Roads Quilt, c. 19th century - “Bow Tie (or Hourglass): A symbol indicating it was necessary to travel in disguise or to change from the clothing of a slave to that of a person of higher status.” -- Tharpe

Hand holding a ruler against the panel of a diamond-pattern quilt. The ruler shows that the panel is approximately 20 x 20 inches.

Detail, Country Fair Quilt, 19th-20th century - “Shoofly: A symbol that possibly identifies a person who can guide and help a person who helped slaves escape along the Underground Railroad and knew the codes.” -- Tharpe

Close-up of a quilt pannel with a pinwheel-shaped pattern created using multiple patterns and fabrics.

Detail, Pinwheel Block Quilt, 19th century - "Wagon Wheel/Variation: A signal to the slave to pack the items needed to travel by wagon or that could be used while traveling. It could also mean to pack the provisions necessary for survival, as if packing a wagon for a long journey, or to actually load the wagon in preparation for escape. Some records indicate the symbol meant a wagon with hidden compartments in which slaves could conceal themselves, would soon be embarking for a trip to freedom.” Tharpe

quilt with multiple diamond-patterned panels. This quilt is discolored in places.

Checkerboard Patchwork Quilt, 19th century, 67” x 75” - Miss Molly, and enslaved woman, made this quilt for her personal use sometime in the 1850s. Note that signs of wear can be seen.

Quilt with identical panels of diamonds and bars repeated to form a pattern.

Beggar’s Block Quilt, c. 19th century, 62” x 76” - This quilt displays identical panels repeated to form a pattern.

Quilt with multiple diamond-patterned panels spread on a lawn.

Checkerboard Patchwork Quilt, 19th century - Miss Molly, an enslaved woman, created this quilt for her personal use sometime in the 1850s. It is the oldest quilt in the Hartsfield Family Quilt Collection.

Close-up of quilt with strong diamond-patterned panels surrounded by panels of flowered fabric.

Detail, Patchwork 3D Quilt - “Tumbling Blocks or Boxes: A symbol indicating it was time for slaves to pack up and go, that a conductor was in the area.” -- Tharpe

close-up photo of a quilt with a strong diamond-patterned panel at the center, surrounded by panels of flower-patterned fabric.

Detail, Patchwork 3D Quilt - “Tumbling Blocks or Boxes: A symbol indicating it was time for slaves to pack up and go, that a conductor was in the area.” -- Tharpe

A quilt in which panels with diamonds merging to form other shapes are repeated in different colors gives the apperance, at first glance, that most of the panels are unrelated. In fact, each panel's pattern is the same, although panels are rotated differently and created using different colors and fabrics.

The Railroad Crossing, 19th century, 74” x 66” - “Bear’s Paw: Follow the mountain trail, out of vie, and then follow an actual bear’s trail which would lead to water and food.” -- Tharpe

A brown quilt, folded, with hexagon panels joined by triangular panels.

Folded Quilt - A brown quilt with panels featuring hexagons.

Quilt with repeating larger panels with four-rayed stars joined by smaller panels with a four-check pattern.

Star Block Quilt, c. 19th-20th century, 62” x 82” - A bordered quilt featuring repeating panels with four-rayed stars.

A quilt with borders and nine large panels filled with intricate diamond patterns.

Country Fair Quilt, c. 19th-20th century, 68” x 68” - A bordered quilt with nine diamond panels.

Quilt with repeating panels of a pinwheel pattern created using multiple colors and fabrics.

Pinwheel Block Quilt, 19th century, 80” x 64” - “Wagon Wheel/Variation: A signal to the slave to pack the items needed to travel by wagon or that could be used while traveling. It could also mean to pack the provisions necessary for survival, as if packing a wagon for a long journey, or to actually load the wagon in preparation for escape. Some records indicate the symbol meant a wagon with hidden compartments in which slaves could conceal themselves, would soon be embarking for a trip to freedom.” -- Tharpe

A boldly colored quilt with a repeating square pattern. A row of three panels is upper left quadrant is colored green and white, in strong contrast with the rest of the quit, in which green is not featured.

Crossroads Quilt, 19th century, 78” x 66” - “Crossroads: A symbol referring to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the main crossroads with several routes to freedom. On a lesser level, the term ‘crossroads’ also means reaching a turning point in one’s life, where a choice must be made and then carry on.” -- Tharpe

A quilt using a repeating diamond and cross pattern made from multiple colors and fabrics.

Country Roads Quilt, e. 19th century, 68” x 78” - “Bow Tie (or Hourglass): A symbol indicating it was necessary to travel in disguise or to change from the clothing of a slave to that of a person of higher status.” -- Tharpe

This quilt juxtaposes strongly colored diamond-patterned panels with panels of flowered fabric.

Patchwork 3D Quilt, c. 19th-20th century, 82” x 60” - “Tumbling Blocks or Boxes: A symbol indicating it was time for slaves to pack up and go, that a conductor was in the area.” -- Tharpe

softly colored panels of an intricate diamond pattern are separated by a grid of red-and-white bars.

Jacob’s Ladder Quilt, c. 20th century, 82” x 76” - A strong square pattern separates intricately diamond-patterned panels.

Quilt with a repeating square pattern on a bed.

Nine Block Pattern Quilt, 20th century, 96” x 96” - In addition to being objects of art, some of the Hartsfield Family quilts were used and displayed in homes.

Cross-and-diamond patterned quilt on display in a gallery.

Country Roads Quilt, c. 19th century, 68” x 78” - “Shoofly: A symbol that possibly identifies a person who can guide and help a person who helped slaves escape along the Underground Railroad and knew the codes.” -- Tharpe

Quilt with large square patterns displayed on a bench outside a house below an American flag.

Quilt - A quilt displayed on a bench.

Sepia photo of two women of color in dresses sitting on the front of an old-fashioned car or truck.

Hartsfield Quilters - The Hartsfield Family Quilts were made and kept in repair by generations of Hartsfield women. This photo shows Lina Hartsfield with her daughter Lona Thomas.

Black and white photo of a group of men, women and children of color in formal attire sitting and standing near a house.

The Hartsfield Family House - Jim Tharpe first became aware of his family's quilt collection when he saw a quilt on a bed at the family house in Tennessee. In this photo, family members pose near the family house in the 1950s.

Image of parts diagram of old manual singer sewing machine.