People often send us letters offering items for our collection. Recently, I received a letter in the mail that surprised and absolutely delighted me.
Among the notable collections of The Henry Ford are 12 quilts made by an exceptionally talented, unassuming Indiana farm wife named Susan McCord (1829-1909). I opened the letter to find that the family of McCord’s great-grandson was offering us the opportunity to acquire one more: a Triple Irish Chain quilt made for her daughter, Millie McCord Canaday, about 1900.
It was the last remaining quilt known to have been made by Susan McCord. Soon after, this beauty was on its way to Dearborn to join the other 12 McCord quilts in The Henry Ford’s collection.
The Triple Irish Chain is a traditional quilt pattern — but in Susan McCord’s hands, this design became much more. Like all of her quilts, the Triple Irish Chain demonstrates McCord’s considerable skill at manipulating fabric, color and design to turn a traditional quilt pattern into something extraordinary.
I could easily imagine Susan McCord carefully choosing fabric from her bag of scraps, cutting it into thousands of fabric squares, carefully determining their placement within the overall design and sewing the squares together. I could picture McCord then topping off this creation with her utterly unique, “signature” design — a stunning vine border, the leaves expertly pieced from tiny scraps of fabric. And it certainly wasn’t hard to imagine Millie McCord’s delight when she received this lovely gift!
To all who see Susan McCord’s quilts – whether experts or casual observers – the remarkable beauty and craftsmanship is evident. Now beautifully photographed, the story of this quilt can be readily accessed through our online collections – so that anyone, near or far, can enjoy McCord’s quilt at the click of a mouse.
Do you have any special family quilts or other handmade heirlooms? Share your story in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford, is an unabashed Susan McCord “groupie.”