Mary Posey’s Quilt

One quilt, nine dresses, and a tradition spanning time and place

In 2015 from April to Labor Day, Dumbarton House displayed the “Posey Quilt,” an early 19th century American pieced quilt made of silk dress fabrics from a variety of early American women and Posey family members. On public view for the first time in a dedicated exhibition, the quilt included fabric squares from the dresses of Martha Washington, Nelly Custis, and the quilt’s creator, Mary Alexander Posey, who married Thomas Posey in 1784.

The exhibition highlighted the eight women believed to have owned the dresses used in the quilt, as well as the Posey family and its long tradition of passing the quilt down from mother to oldest daughter; a tradition which moved the quilt across North America for generations until it was donated to Dumbarton House in the early 1960’s. The quilt has small numbers on various squares which correspond to the fabrics of the women’s dresses. A muslin key on the lower left corner of the backing matches the numbers of the fabrics with their owners. According to the key, the quilt includes fabric from the dresses of “Betty Washington Lewis, Nellie Custis, Mary Alexander (Thornton) Posey, Martha Washington, Lucy Posey,” and a “Mrs. Beverly, Mrs. Fairfax, and Mrs. William Thornton.” The exhibition also examined historical uses of silk and textiles in Federal America.

64.6 no clips web

Posey Quilt, early 19th century
Dumbarton House Collection, #64.6