Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hewson Vase Panel # 18

Detail of a Hewson vase panel

A few years ago we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art where curators were kind enough to show us panel quilts and fabric. We were intrigued by this uncut panel, commonly acknowledged to have been printed by John Hewson in Philadelphia...

because it included a floral vine border, not often seen in other versions of the panel.

Similar panel, different border
in a quilt from the Delaware Historical Society. 

See details of this chintz medallion here:

Center of a quilt in the Herr Collection at the 
Historical Society of York County, Pennsylvania

Metropolitan Museum of Art
27-5/8 x 29-1/2 inches

The Hewson Printworks used woodblocks to print the design so we see various compositions with the same birds and butterflies placed in different spots.

Well-worn quilt from the Winterthur Museum, acquired in the last decade

A toile border frames the medallion...

Much like this one in a private collection.

John Hewson (1744-1821)

Inspired by our late friend Cuesta Benberry we have kept lists of quilts with Hewson Vase panels for quite a while. For this post we added a few more, bringing the list up to 18 bedcovers, indicating the Hewson panel's popularity in the U.S. We have never seen it in British or Commonwealth quilts.

Stuffed work medallion with Hewson panel, inscribed 1809,
St. Louis Art Museum

The earliest dated example in our files is inscribed 1809. The latest 1848. The 1809 quilt is indeed the earliest date-inscribed quilt with any panel in the U.S. dated the same year as the British George III commemorative panel (#24) discussed in this post:

Quilt dated 1848, signed
Elizabeth Hart, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Spencer Museum of Art
Quilt dated 1811 by Betsy Burton, Cincinnati Art Museum

Another early Hewson. What looks like a printed border around the vase is a pieced strip
of eccentric print.

Bird motifs were usually included in the Vase panel

Stuffed-work medallion with Hewson panel
in the Orlofsky collection, published in the 1974
book Quilts in America.

What can we learn from the Hewson panel quilts?

The vase panel must have been Hewson's bread and butter---textile industry jargon for a profitable classic printed over and over. We know very little about their other prints. Did the Hewson printworks produce other woodblock printed panels? Merikay has questioned the common assumption that all the panels found in the U.S. were imported. (See Spring, 2014 issue of Blanket Statements, AQSG's newsletter.) 
"Could any of the chintz panels have been designed and/or printed in the U.S? ... Without company records or advertising this question remains hypothetical."
We'll be discussing this hypothesis further.

Panel #19

We've both been struck by Panel #19, the Butterfly panel discussed in the last post. Hewson vase panels include at least three butterflies (or moths) with much in common such as outlines, antennae and areas of red, brown and blue. Could it be an American print?

Common Hewson moth,
reproduction and original prints above

Andover's repro insects are on a separate fabric

Kathy Hall at Andover did a fabric line based on Winterthur's Hewson collection.A web search for Hewson Andover indicates that online shops still have some "John Hewson" for sale.

Read more about Hewson's wife Zebiah Smallwood Hewson at this post:

Bedcover by Zebiah Smallwood Hewson (1749-1815)
Philadelphia Museum of Art

See her quilt and the panel at the top of the page by going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art page and searching for Hewson:

The best online biography of John Hewson Senior is in the Winterthur catalog.

Liz Wright has a Pinterest Page on Hewson quilts old and new:

Jan Wass still has Andover reproduction Hewson panels for sale:

Someday we are going to get our repros finished.


  1. Wonderful information, thank you. And I commend you on your works in progress. My repro panel is still on the shelf!

  2. Another treasure trove of information. Also, your article on Prussian Blue in the current issue of Quiltmania is wonderful. I loved the photographs and thought they were very well reproduced. The Nadal quilt is priceless. Hope you will be writing more for them.

  3. I am looking for a Hewson Vase panel. Unfortunately Jan Was do not send parcels to South Africa. i completed my reproduction quilt but still searching for the centre!