During the Revolutionary War period, John Hewson, an English textile printer, challenged the authority of the British Empire over colonial
through the simple act of printing on fabric. In defiance of the British ban on the importation of printing equipment and technology, Hewson, highly trained in textile work, crossed the ocean with his family, his own proficiency in the textile printing trades, and smuggled contraband printing equipment. America
Hewson is best known for block-printed squares featuring an elaborate vase overflowing with flowers and sheaves of wheat and surrounded by motifs of butterflies and birds. These squares were used as the center medallions of quilts—as seen in this example—pieced together from a variety of eighteenth-century block-printed linens and cottons, some or all of which may have been printed in Hewson’s shop as well. It has a typical early quilt construction of a center medallion surrounded by multiple borders or frames. The highly complex appearance is deceiving, as the left side of the quilt is a virtual mirror image of the right.
From the collection of the
: Hewson Printed Center Medallion Quilt. Quilt maker unidentified; center block printed by John Hewson in the American Folk Art Museum between 1790–1810. Cotton and possibly linen; 85 1⁄2 × 76" United States