The Missing Man Contest


A fun contest based on an article in the February issue, “Behind the scenes at the museum.” The museum is the American Folk Art Museum and the man is “missing” from the Bird of Paradise quilt top made 1858-1863. Why are we saying there is a man missing from the quilt? Because the families that were guardians of this quilt before it entered the museum’s collection were kind enough to keep the newspaper templates made for the applique along with the quilt. And though there are men depicted on this quilt top, not THIS man!


You can see the lady made from the template in the top “row” of the quilt, but you won’t find her intended companion It’s a mystery. 
     Tell us what you think happened to keep the man off the quilt in 100 words or less. Email your story to and put “Missing Man” in the subject line. Deadline is Feb. 14th. If your story is one of the three most interesting entries, you’ll win a copy of the Museum’s beautiful new book QUILTS: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum!
Quilt photo by Gavin Ashworth, New York; template photo by John Parnell, New York
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

21 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I saw this quilt at the folk art museum… FABULOUS Show of quilts, I must say, better than anything I have seen in a while… Where is he? cold feet, is my guess… I figure if he died, they would have kept him in the quilt… 😉


I think he most likley died in the war. She was probably working on this quilt while he was away. it was supposed to be her wedding quilt.when she recieved the news of his death she placed the flowers in the block that was supposed to be his.she never quilted it.


jackie, i think he cheated with another woman!!


I think she made the quilt for her wedding. She was in love with a man who had no means to support them and she was from a wealthy family. Her betrothed went off to make his fortune and never returned, so she finished the quilt without him and hoping that someday he would return to her.



Prudence started this wedding quilt because Hiram asked her to marry. She sang a lovely song as she stitched each leaf and flower with care, dreaming of her future family and their many children. Hiram owned 160 acres of rich farm land and was an elder in the local Presbyterian church. A fine man.One day a friend told her that Hiram had married Jane in the next county! Prudence cried, screamed, took to her bed and refused to eat. Slowly she began to recover from his betrayel. She took up her quilt again and ripped up the block in which… Read more »


This quilt spoke to me when I saw it in the American quilt Museum. As a woman, mother, grandmother and a quilter I believe there is a spiritual connection to those woman who left their mark in the past. The workmanship in this quilt spoke of the womans' love for the recepient. Her hopes and dreams for the couples happiness were painstakenly stitched in anticipation of their wedding with their quilting talents. The end of this dream is reflected in the obvious missing man, for whatever reason. The courage it took to move forward and complete it, speaks volumes to… Read more »


…too much drama! She simply used her 'woman's perogative' and changed her mind, as we all do when designing a quilt. He looks too 'cosmopolitan' for this design, anyway. It's a Masterpiece even without him-a life story? Dianne Cass


I think she decided she was a "modern" woman and didn't need a fellow telling her what to do and owning her and her property. Early woman Libber and good for her.


I think she was woman who knew her own mind, valued her personal freedom and so, to the consternation of her family, was in danger of becoming the dreaded 'spinster daughter'. Predictably, a nearby widower sought her hand so, in keeping with the mores of the times and under direct pressure from her parents, she sadly accepted her fate and began this quilt. Imagine the ballyhoo when, on the eve of the wedding, her not-so-dearly betrothed was trampled by an elephant from a nearby traveling circus as he paraded his elegant horse along the main thoroughfare. She quietly removed the… Read more »

Mary was in love with John from the time she saw him when she was a little girl . She worked on her quilt ,planing her wedding and her children. She was from a well to do upstanding family, with a horse farm amd six brothers that went off to the war on the norths side. Her beloved chose to side with the south and she could not abide the thought he would be fighting with her brothers. So she broke the engagement and took him out of the quilt.


This quilt was made around the civil war period,also the women rights movement. This woman could have been involved with the equality of womens rights.American women wanted equal rights.The first womens rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, which happens to be by Poughkeepsie, where the newspaper templates were cut from.Her dress on quilt is shorter than template, to me indicating her rebellion to fight for equal rights as men. She intentionally left out the man,as the square has leaves and flowers applique on it rather than being blank where the man is suppose to be. Quilt maker… Read more »




I believe the quilter was engaged to be married. He went off to fight in the Civil War and was killed in battle. Since he died the marriage never took place. If she had gone ahead and still put him in the reminder would have always been there. So she left him out because the marriage never happened.PKS

Catherine Carr

It was a design decision by the quilter – she had cut and appliqued more flower and leaf pieces than she originally planned for, could not bear to not use them after all that work, and thus the man would not fit in the final design. Ce la vie!

Wendy Jo

The designer and creator of this quilt started making the quilt when she got engaged and her soon to be husband died in the war and she didnt have the heart to add him


I believe he was so bashful that he is hiding behind the vines.


Everything is in pairs…except for her. The block next to hers has one white flower. I think he was killed, and they were not yet married so they weren't a "pair" yet. So his love is represented by the white flower. She didn’t want to forget him, but custom wouldn’t allow her to add him.


I have been fascinated with this quilt for years and now I am making it with several other women all over the world. I have felt that the dear man was killed in the war and she finished the quilt while she mourned. The white flowers I agree are part of the message that he is gone but not forgotten. A circus in town then was a big event and maybe they loved the circus and this was a memory to keep.
Jaydee Price

gale polk

I have admired this quilt for years and would love the pattern. Can you point me in the right direction to get it?


Perhaps she started this as a bridal quilt but never found a groom? Seneca Falls is NOT near Poughkeepsie, although this still could have been made by a "liberated woman". I would guess she was from a wealthy family. She is a large woman (she probably had servants to do the manual labor), access to publications (she probably knew how to read) and free time (to create a masterpiece quilt.) How wonderful that the family kept the templates for 160 years!


Deborah says:

Any news on the contest winners?

Irene Onderweegs

The man is there!
He tends to the elephant, as she puts the love apples around her.
She shortened her skirt to be with him, and run off ;^} with the circus!
Not according to tradition, that's why the husband is not showing from the front, but from the side, his whole handsome self strong enough to carry the water for Jumbo!
After 160 yrs the family still cherishes this stubborn and original woman.