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Baltimore Album Quilt

About 1850

Made by Ruth Pettit Penn (b. ca. 1807)

103 inches square; 21 in. square blocks
10-11 stitches per inch

Gift of Jane Disharoon Bunting, Ann Disharoon Baker, and W. Robert Disharoon


Baltimore, Dist. 1, Maryland; quilted in Elkridge, MD

Baltimore, Dist. 1, Maryland;
quilted in Elkridge, MD


Ruth Penn purchased sixteen blocks in the same style for her quilt. The identical wreath designs, with varying center vases, suggest the Album quilt customer could pick and choose from several variations. The uniformity of design and thoughtful placement of blocks contrast with the highly idiosyncratic quilting, which displays frequently changing background designs.

Look for hearts, a hand, a bird, an anchor, and letters near the center, arranged backwards and randomly: “SAMOHT ROFPRBQ P PENN,” seemingly meaning “Q[uilted] B[y] R[uth] P[enn] FOR THOMAS P PENN.”


Ruth Pettit assembled this quilt for her son Thomas, a combmaker. Friends signed with signatures, stamps, and embroidery. Family history says it was quilted in Elkridge, just outside Baltimore.


Solid cottons, inked and embroidered inscriptions, cotton backing and filling

New colorfast red and green dyes spurred this color combination’s popularity at midcentury. Vast quantities of red and green calico prints poured out of the cotton mills—several of which were located near Baltimore.