In 1888, a group of unwed girls from Union County, Tennessee made a friendship quilt for Marcellus Moss Rice. The girls spent a good deal of their spare time making quilts for the eligible young bachelors of the community. Each girl would make a square, embroider her name upon it, and incorporate it into a quilt. Over a period of time, they had a number of these quilts; enough, it was said, for every young man in the immediate area—except for Marcellus Moss Rice.
He was younger than the other boys, and not quite old enough for marriage (The girls may have been concentrating on the more marriageable men). The young men who had received their quilts noted that Marcellus had not gotten one, and “made fun” of him because the girls had ostensibly, left him out.
When the girls learned that Marcellus was being ridiculed, they got busy and made him not just one, but two friendship quilts—the second one no doubt as an admonishment to the other boys who had ridiculed him. Marcellus treasured these quilts for years, and eventually gave one to each of his two daughters, Ruby Rice Little and Ruth Rice Irwin.
The making of friendship quilts was quite common in most areas of Southern Appalachia, as well as throughout the country. This all-pieced quilt, with squares set on the diamond, has been called the Lily pattern and is generally called Tulip in Vase. Although there are three tulips in each vase, the singular form is used.
This artifact is housed in our Hall of Fame Building, and is also featured in the book, A PEOPLE AND THEIR QUILTS, by John Rice Irwin.
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