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Pieced Counterpane


Made by Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key
(Mrs. Francis Scott Key) (1784-1859)

109 inches square

Gift of Frank F. Greenawalt in memory of Maud W. Lipscomb Greenawalt
Conservation funded by Massachusetts DAR


Probably made in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland

Probably made in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland


This visually stunning design combines over-the-top piecing with an overall symmetrical framed medallion format (almost outdated by the 1840s). Look closely at any of the bordered triangle areas, and you’ll see the seemingly random placement of colored triangles actually follows a very disciplined and symmetrical pattern.


Mary Key was widowed in 1843 and turned sixty in 1844. After her husband’s death, she probably divided her time between her Washington, DC, home and her Maryland properties, and visiting her daughter in Baltimore. Key possibly brought fabric from one house to another to work on a small section at a time, so perhaps the quilt was made in both Maryland and the District. In the 1850 census, Mary was living in Baltimore.


Roller-printed and solid cottons; cotton piping

We count 3,876 triangles in this quilt, and 4,445 pieces overall. There are at least sixty different printed cottons represented. Notice the Greek Key design in the border, surely a play on the family name.