"Grandma" Carpenter

Digging into genealogical records and newspaper archives can yield surprising results. “Grandma” Harriet Carpenter was a prolific quiltmaker from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the late 19th century who made original quilt designs. One of her best known designs is "Stars and Comet," of which there are many extant examples, and which might have been inspired by the Great Comet of 1882. She also made a memorable "Rainbow" quilt design. Recent genealogical and archival research has revealed that a group of Rainbow quilts attributed to her were instead made by two neighbors who likely worked alongside her and in her style. One is a recent gift to the IQM from Grandma Carpenter’s descendants. The other three in the James Collection are attributed to Susan Frey Habecker and Mabel Mae Brubaker. All three women embroidered their initials in large and ornate embroidery and used the same fabric combinations and quilting designs. Harriet Carpenter’s mother-in-law was a Habecker and both they and the Brubakers are found in the same neighborhood. The identical format – including elaborate quilting – indicates they were made from the same pattern; however, to date no link has been proven.

This is what the Lititz (PA) Record had to say about Harriet Carpenter on February 7, 1910 in their article, "A Pine Hill Lady of 79 has Few to Equal her Designs":

“That the aged Mrs. Harriet Carpenter, residing at Pine Hill, Warwick Township, who is 79 years old has few if any equals in designing and quilting patchwork is undisputed. Although of a quiet and modest disposition, with no inclination to become popular in her hobby, she has nevertheless gained quite a reputation in this line of work, not only from the taste displayed in arranging the many-colored patches in order to present an attractive appearance but also in her adeptness in handling the needle. Now she is being sought by others and prevailed upon to execute work for them. From near and far people have been coming to her home to see her beautiful work, a number recently having put in their appearance by sleighs who were entire strangers to her.”