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March 1, 2024

The Importance Of The Thornton Burgess Commemorative Quilt


When Liz Henry of Bourne was asked to create a quilt for Thornton Burgess’ 150th birthday celebration this year, she was intrigued. This was not going to be just any quilt. The design would be based on patterns used in the early 1900s by Ruby Short McKim. The quilter’s work had won a Kansas City Star newspaper contest in 1916, a time when Mr. Burgess’ children’s books and animal characters were wildly popular in the US. Her patterns ran individually in the newspaper and later were assembled in a collection put together as the “Quaddy Bedtime Quilt.”

After looking over the patterns, still available through the Ruby McKim Studios, Ms. Henry agreed to make a commemorative quilt for the Thornton Burgess Society as a raffle/drawing project. She recruited Shirley Ladetto, who had worked with her on the 1984 Bourne Centennial Quilt, displayed in the Jonathan Bourne Library.

For about eight months, the two experienced quilters worked together on the design and completion of the Burgess quilt. Ms. Henry, also a weaving instructor at the Falmouth Artists Guild, took three weeks to hand-weave thin colored strips to appliqué around the borders of the animal character panels.

“The importance of this quilt is that it commemorates Ruby McKim’s quilting tradition and Thornton Burgess’ lifetime of writing animal stories for children,” said Ms. Henry. “Thornton Burgess loved nature and wild animals, and this quilt is a reminder of the need to respect them. The threads in the handwoven strips represent the biodiversity of nature that the animals need to survive.”