A Most Impressive Quilt from McKissick Museum

By Chauna Carr

We recently worked with McKissick Museum’s Curator of Collections, Christian Cicimurri, to digitize one of their new acquisitions, an impressive paper pieced mosaic quilt top with a very interesting backstory. Donated to McKissick this past April by Mr. Pickett Wright, the piece is an unfinished mosaic quilt top made of fabric wrapped around hexagonal paper templates. The fabric has been “fussy cut,” so the resulting medallions make a design themselves. (Fussy cut simply means when a piece of fabric has been cut to target a specific area of a print, rather than just cutting the fabric into random pieces.)

A photograph of a Young Rebecca Margaret Pickens Salley
A Young Rebecca Margaret Pickens Salley

According to Mrs. Cicimurri, “[Mr. Pickett Wright] is a direct descendant of   General Andrew Pickens (1793-1817) – the Wizard Owl of the Revolutionary War and a U.S. Congressman from 1775-1783.  He is not entirely sure who made the quilt or exactly when, but feels certain (from conversations with his grandmother—Annie Lena Salley Smith) that it was either Rebecca Margaret Pickens Salley (1832-1893) of Orangeburg, SC (great-granddaughter of Gen. Pickens), or one of her daughters, Emma Legare Salley Evans (1869-1963) or Mary Boone Salley (1863-1941). These daughters were his grandmother’s sisters.”

Family legend suggests the paper pieces used for backing were letters written home by a confederate soldier, but there is no direct evidence of this claim. The paper used is largely handwritten letters and handwriting practice sheets with the dates of 1872 and 1874 visible.

McKissick is very excited to add this to their robust collection of quilts ranging from about 1815 to around 2016. Keep an eye out for the final images of the quilt coming soon! To give you a taste, here is our team in the process of digitizing this masterpiece.