Thursday, November 4, 2021

"Wild and Untamed"—An Exhibit

Both Teri and I (Kara) have a love of Baltimore Album quilts—especially since we live in the great state of Maryland, where these quilts originated. Most of these quilts were created in a short period of time and have not just fascinated us, but they also intrigued the well-known father of occupational therapy, Dr. William Rush Dunton. Dr. Dunton believed that quilting could be therapeutic for women (and men) who suffered from mental health issues. He was also fascinated with old quilts, specifically the intricacies and detail of the Baltimore Album quilts. This interest led to groundbreaking research in these quilts and helped to shed some light on the mysteries that these quilts hold.

We were privileged to tour the exhibit, Wild and Untamed at the Maryland Center for History and Culture. The exhibit showcases some wonderful examples of Baltimore Album quilts and explains how Dr. Dunton used quilts like these to inspire his patients. The added bonus of the tour was to be personally guided by the Quilters Hall of Fame inductee, Mimi Dietrich. It was a rare opportunity to see these exquisite quilts up close and to have our tour led by such an esteemed tour guide.

Come along with us as we take a closer look at some fascinating examples of the Baltimore Album style and some of the inspiration for Dr. Dunton's research.

Quilt owned by Eliza Needles circa 1843-1844

Chintz quilt by Joanna Cushing Montell circa 1834

A well-known example of a Baltimore Album quilt attributed to Mary Simon circa 1852.

A quilt that fascinated Dr. Dunton because it was made by one woman, Rachel Meyer Walker.
He wondered if she had an interest in zoology because of all the wonderful creatures she stitched.
Circa 1850

This quilt was made by Clara Hirschmann and shows an incredible level of detail 
and artistry–especially in regard to the embroidery. Circa 1850

This commemorative quilt presented to the Methodist minister, Thomas Harrison West Monroe, 
is wonderful example of a presentation quilt made my multiple makers. Circa 1846-1847

Presumed to be made by or for Eliza Eleanor Haslap circa 1850

Made by Sarah Jane Trigg McDonald of Ellicott City circa 1850


Quilt made by Amanda Alexander Porter circa 1849

Multiple makers circa 1845-1848

This post is just a small glimpse of some of the quilts that fascinated Dr. Dunton. They fueled his desire to find out more about the makers, as well as help his patients become inspired by what women in the past had created. Dr. Dunton's philosophy, that continued concentration on a manual task—such as this type of needlework—could help alleviate depression and anxiety, is still accurate for us today. How does stitching help you?

We hope that you have enjoyed this virtual tour of these quilts and if you would like to see them in person, the exhibit will be displayed tentatively until early spring of 2022. 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these fabulous quilts!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your visit with these amazing quilts. Do you have any other info. on the quilt in picture 4 - Quilt owned by Eliza Needles circa 1843-1844. I can't find anything by searching for that name. Thank you.

    1. It is a interesting quilt. The quilt was owned by Eliza Marsh Needles nee Matthews but gifted to the museum by Dr. Dunton. Every block is signed but one and the signatures include ones from men as well. Eliza was the wife of John Needles, a fine furniture craftsman from Maryland. This was all information written on the card next to the quilt. Hopefully this gives you a bit more information.

  3. Thank you for sharing this marvelous exhibition!

  4. All I can say is "WOW"!. Thanks for sharing these great photos. How wonderful to see all these treasures in person.