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 is a simple and elegant 18th century pillow of a rare form. The pin decorated sentiment is placed at each side of the four corners of this rare hard-sided cushion. The center pin design is a starburst. I love the hearts in each corner. The pillow was created from silk over linen with fabric covered stiff card sides. 4 ¼” x 5 ½” x 2 ½”. The ivory silk over linen is edged with a corded ribbon and tassels. As you can see from the images, the silk has shattered above “1798” and “Babe”. There is also a slight amount of shattering to one edge and around the back edge. The linen underneath the silk is keeping the stuffing safe. There are 2 tassels missing from the bottom of the pillow. Light staining on the reverse. This is a really excellent early pillow of rare form. The apologies are minor considering how long this silk pillow has survived. And it is dated 1798!
I was extremely lucky to acquire a private collection of these rare cushions. Please take a look at all four that I'm listing today! The last image in this listing is a group shot.
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.