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McKee Family Crazy Quilt

Curated Submission
Delta, British Columbia
Late 1800s
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
188 x 200
Materials & techniques
Silk, cotton; Quilting, embroidery
Edwin Johnston Curtis
Delta Museum and Archives Society DE1995.14
Constructed by Isabella McKee Curtis, this heavily stylized crazy quilt uses a variety of stitches, fabrics, and embroideries to preserve a rich family history. In addition to family initials and dates, Curtis made use of commemorative ribbons associated with the admission of California into the United States in 1850 and with the commemoration of the “Grand Consistory of California / San Francisco 1883” – a “consistory” being a meeting of high-ranking officials in Scottish Rite Masonry.
As the Curtis family appears to have had no connection to Scottish Rite Masonry, the presence of this ribbon in the quilt raises some questions. What prompted this inclusion to the quilt? Historically, there were significant connections between Vancouver and San Francisco, including travel, trade, and communication between the cities. However, there is no record of the Curtis family having spent a significant amount of time in California, except as a stopover en route from their native Ireland to Delta, British Columbia, in 1874. Isabella Curtis may have made an enduring connection to San Francisco at that time, indicated by the prominently displayed word “Mizpah,” which connotes both a longing as a result of separation from loved ones and an expression of hope for future reconciliation.
Doctor Edwin Johnson Curtis, Isabella’s husband, avidly researched their respective family genealogies, which are captured in the quilt, and continued to do so after Isabella’s death in 1925. He made significant contributions to the preservation of local history through the donation of documents, photographs, cultural artifacts, and this unique artifact of historical memory.
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