Crazy patchwork quilt, hand sewn and embroidered, assorted silk / cotton / paper, commissioned by Mrs Georgia Hunt Murphy and made by Juliette (Mrs Charles) Babbitt, New York, USA, 1910-1913
This American quilt is a fine and particularly well-documented example of crazy-patchwork, a form of needlework that was used widely for making quilts and other household coverings in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Crazy quilting originated in America and strongly influenced quilt makers and needle workers in Australia as well as Europe. Normally, crazy quilts were made not so much as bed covers, but rather as pieces to be seen. In their heyday in the Victorian era they were used as 'parlour throws' or as covers when having a nap. This particular quilt however is too large to have been used as a throw and may well have been used as a bed cover or simply as a show-piece.
The quilt was brought to Australia from New York in the 1930s. Included in the papers accompanying the quilt was the following note: "This patch-work quilt made by Mrs Juliette M. Babbitt for Mrs Georgia Hunt Murphy is for Georgia Elizabeth, daughter of Robert K Murphy, with grandmother's love and request to treasure it, as also the list of contributors". Georgia Hunt Murphy was a New York socialite who collected the fabrics used in the quilt from her wide range of friends and social contacts; the list of 241 names includes such notables as Buffalo Bill, Lily Langtree and a number of American presidents' wives. The quilt has been treasured by the donor's family who carefully documented its history and have included this information in the gift to the Museum, together with a photograph of Georgia Hunt Murphy.
Although crazy quilts were generally made following no particular pattern and with the pieces of fabric being sewn together in the shape that they came to the quilt maker, in this case the pieces of material have been overlapped, rather than trimmed, to produce the size and shape required.
Each of the patches has a number on it which corresponds to the list of donors and although most of the numbers have been very finely embroidered, others have been written on the material. The quilt has been entirely hand sewn. Feather stitch has been embroidered along the seams between the patches and the quilt has a wide black velvet border, a flannel interlining, and has been finished by backing it with black silk and attaching a three-ply, gold-wrapped thread cord around the edge.
This quilt was commissioned by Mrs Georgia Hunt Murphy, a wealthy American socialite, who collected the pieces of fabric from the wide range of people she knew. The quilt was made by Juliette (Mrs Charles) Babbitt of New York between 1910 and 1913 and given by Mrs Hunt Murphy to her granddaughter, Georgia Elizabeth Murphy. The following note was included in the papers accompanying the quilt when it was brought to Australia in the 1930s by a descendent of Georgia Hunt Murphy: "This patchwork quilt made by Mrs Juliette M. Babbitt for Mrs Georgia Hunt Murphy is for Georgia Elizabeth, daughter of Robert K. Murphy, with grandmother's love and request to treasure it, as also the list of contributors."
Georgia Hunt Murphy (1856-1936) was married to William Augustus Murphy (1843-1907) and lived in the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The Murphys, whose wealth came from a paper mill, a paint factory which supplied all the varnish for trans-continental American trains, and a major shoe-making firm called Johnson & Murphy, attended many official functions. Delighted by the beauty of the fabrics of the women's dresses, Georgia Hunt Murphy asked if the wearers would mind giving her scraps of fabric from their gowns. Over the years, she collected many pieces of fabric from some of the most influential people who lived at that time in America, Europe, Japan and South America. Having a great love of fabrics and embroidery, Georgia Hunt Murphy decided to commission Mrs Juliette (Mrs Charles H.) Babbitt to make a quilt from her fabric collection. The quilt was finished in 1913; each piece is embroidered or marked with a number which corresponds with the name of the original owner of the fabric on a numbered list.
When Georgia Hunt Murphy died, the quilt was handed down, as per her instructions, to her granddaughter Georgia Elizabeth Murphy (1923-1999), whose father Robert Kenneth Murphy (1887-1972) came to Sydney in 1910 to help establish the Chemical Engineering faculty at the University of NSW. Highly regarded at the University, he was offered a senior position and elected to stay in Australia. Georgia Elizabeth Murphy shared her grandmother's love of fabrics and embroidery and she greatly treasured the quilt, which was very special to her. When she died, the quilt was passed on to her daughter, the donor, Jacqueline (Jay) Gray Lloyd of Longueville, who recognised the socio-historical significance of this exceptionally well documented and provenanced quilt and offered it to the Museum.
Normally, crazy quilts were made not so much as bed covers, but rather as pieces to be seen. In their heyday in the Victorian era they were used as 'parlour throws' or as covers when having a nap. This particular quilt however is too large to have been used as a throw and may well have been used as a bed cover or simply as a show-piece.