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Album Quilt

A symbol of the Freemasons’ organization, the square and compasses reminded members of the virtues of good judgment and fairness.

The heart in hand is a symbol of charity and friendship used by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Patriotic images like this cannon are common on Baltimore album quilts.

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A Virtuous Message

Many men and women in 19th-century Baltimore belonged to clubs and organizations. Baltimore album quilts often include squares decorated with symbols used by those groups. Two charitable organizations popular with men of the time are represented in the designs on this quilt. The symbol of three linked rings—standing for the virtues of friendship, love, and truth—was (and still is) used by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The square and compasses is an emblem used by the Freemasons (or Masons).

Other images on the quilt are symbols of friendship and kindness. The pineapple represents hospitality, and the cornucopia indicates generosity. Scales symbolize justice. The anchor stands for hope, and the harp for music. The design of two hearts pierced by an arrow clearly means love; the hand holding a heart symbolizes friendship; and the pear signifies affection.

Many Baltimore album quilts also include emblems of national pride. In this quilt’s bottom right corner, a cannon and red-and-white-striped swag are patriotic references to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry and the 1812 battle that inspired the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is often seen at Thanksgiving.
January 2009