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An American Eagle is surrounded by 13 stars and swag borders on this dated & initialed kit quilt.

Let’s take a moment to remember and reflect on those 56 brave men who risked their lives by signing the Declaration of Independence. What they set in motion would have repercussions far more significant than they could ever imagine: Not only for themselves but for the world. When they signed, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” The turmoil of fighting a war against the more well-equipped British Army and knowing the danger they were putting their lives and their family’s lives in had to weigh heavy on them. For them there was no turning back. They would not stand to be governed by the British and be under their thumb. Their desire for independence for their heirs was of upmost importance.

Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress assigned Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams the task to design an official seal for the infant nation. They failed to develop a design that met Congress’ approval, as did two later committees. In mid-June 1782, the work of all three committees was handed over to Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress. Thomson chose what he thought to be the best elements of the various designs including the eagle that the artistic Pennsylvania lawyer William Barton included in a design by the last committee. Thomson made the eagle the seal’s focal point as eagles have been used since ancient times. It signifies strength, inspiration, release from bondage, victory, and longevity.

With the eagle now prominently on the seal, Thomson also recommended, and it was agreed, to replace Barton’s small white eagle with the majestic American bald eagle. On June 20, 1872 Congress adopted the design making the American bald eagle very popular as the design appeared on official documents, currency, flags, and public buildings.

The eagle also started to show up on quilts! Whether springing from the creativity of their maker, or from kits, eagle designs became popular. They particularly seem to be popular in times of war, whether the Civil War, WW I and II, or even the Vietnam War. I recently acquired the accompanying quilt with embroidered initials TAL and dated 1961. The eagle in the center has 13 stars above it presumably symbolizing the 13 colonies. The swag border design is reminiscent of bunting. It makes me wonder about the maker and its recipient. It was purchased at a large antique mall in Decatur, Indiana. If anyone recognizes it, please let me know. Go to bit.ly/3deJU21 to read more history of vintage eagle quilts.

Have a safe and glorious 4th!

Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer