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
May he whose
Cradle was a manger
Bless and protect
The little Stranger
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 pillow is hand sewn from a ivory-colored moiré silk. The fringe edge is made of wispy silk strands from a very gine silk tape. One fringed edge is sewn to the very edge of the pillow and the other is sewn at the edge of the design, but more towards the face of the pillow to give the fringe a tiered look. About 3/4" inside of the pillow's edge, the pin decoration includes the inscription and a border with a connecting design that almost looks like crosses connected. Condition is very good with light overall darkening of the silk, and a little light staining. There are some slight marks from pins between the lines first and second lines of the inscription that indicate the maker reconsidered the spacing after starting and, so, restarted further up the face of the pillow. There is no drawn design, so the pin decoration would have been all freehand. I can't find any missing pins or shattering to the silk. What I initially believed was a bit of red staining in "M" of the first line and "C" of the second line turned out to be fine fabric strands that had become wrapped around the pinheads. I removed almost all of the strands but there are a few wrapped so tightly around the pinheads that I'd have to remove pins to loosen the fabric, something that I'm not willing to do. The back has the remnants of an adhesive label and a small hole--but the stuffing is still nice and tight. The pillow measures 6" x 6 1/4", not including the fringe. Circa first quarter of the 19th century. This pillow is a real gem, as are the others currently listed on the website. I felt extremely lucky to be able to acquire the small collection already listed and listing those drew this one out of another collection!
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.