These pillows or cushions are commonly referred to as christening pillows or cushions. Brandt & Cullman tell us that these wonderful pin cushions were hung on the front door to announce the arrival of a baby to friends and neighbors.1 I suspect all three of the pillows I am listing today were given as gifts to the newborn's mother and were kept indoors. There is no indication that any ever had a ribbon for hanging and all three are quite heavy from the straw stuffing.
Steel pins form the sentiment
The pins are handmade in two parts. First, a wire was drawn, straightened, cut, one end was sharpened. And the other was ground to accept the the head. Then a handmade head was added (if you look with a loupe you can see that the head fits like a collar around the straight pin). Finally the entire pin was polished and the pins were placed in a paper packet for sale. By 1776, American pin factories were turning out 5000 pins per day.2
This beautiful little pillow is hand sewn from a buff-colored woven fabric. I'm not entirely certain what type of fabric this is, but I suspect it is a lightweight wool. The pillow is stuffed with hard straw. Condition is very good with light overall soiling, one small round stain and a few tiny rust stains on the back (see last photo). There are a few missing pins at the top edge at about 8:30 o'clock, a few missing from the scalloped design around the side edge at about 8 o'clock. It also looks as if there used to be pins in each corner from top to bottom, but no more. It measures 5" x 5" x a hefty 2 1/2" deep. Circa 1828. This pillow is a real gem, as are the other two pillows that I'm listing today.
1Brant, Sandra & Cullman, Elissa, Small Folk A Celebration of Childhood in America. E.P. Dutton, New York, 1980. 43.
Please see the Christening or Birth Pillows page for more information about these rare survivors.