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About the Des Moines Historical Quilt

Marion Case CunninghamMarion Case Cunningham first envisioned a quilt depicting Des Moines historical sites in about 1978. Women from the Des Moines community with a link to their subject completed most of the squares in the early 1980s. However, at that time there were not enough of them to assemble into an entire quilt. In the interim the squares were “framed” with strips of brown construction paper glued to the seam allowance to simulate a finished quilt and then hung inside the entrance of the Des Moines Museum on the outside wall. Unfortunately, the roof of the museum leaked right above the quilt at one point, and water stained many of the squares. A member of the museum Board of Directors removed them from the wall, discarded the paper “frames,” and stored them in a cabinet drawer, where they languished for years.

Carol DavisCarol Davis, the secretary of the Board of Directors, found them in January 2001 and took them to five different cleaners in an attempt to have the glue residue and water marks removed. All the cleaners said it would be safer to leave them as they were, as dry cleaning or washing would very likely damage them further. Although stitching the squares into the final quilt covered most of the glue residue, one can still see the water damage in several of the squares. Various women from the community contributed seven new blocks in February 2001, and the finished quilt had its debut in its new location on an inside wall of the museum in April.

Debbie ElhardDebbie Elhard, owner of Carriage Country Quilts at 22214 Marine View Drive S. in Des Moines, generously donated the fabric for framing and backing the quilt squares of the Des Moines Historical Quilt.

The members of the Des Moines Quilting Circle, working once a week in Velna Steiner’s home, make many quilts from fabric donated by various businesses and organizations. They then donate the quilts to the homeless, the Des Moines Methodist Church Food Bank, the Habitat for Humanity, an Indian reservation in Montana, Kosovo, places in eastern Siberia and others. Velna Steiner sewed the various quilt squares of the Des Moines Historical Quilt together, then the ladies tied and quilted it.
Des Moines Quilting Circle members
Back Row: Beverly Warner, Harriette Fredenburg, Judy Hough, Grace Stagg, Lillian Mickelsen, Jacque Hall.  
Front Row: Velna Steiner, Mary Pradel, Lois Bender, Mary Bassett, Letha Crowell.

Scrapbook and Web Site

Janettte Moses ArmstrongJanette Moses Armstrong, the daughter of Des Moines pioneer Rilda Martin Moses and Otto Moses, made the quilt square of the Van Gasken House used as the cover of the Des Moines Historical Quilt scrapbook, which is on display at the Des Moines Historical Society Museum.

Scrapbook Cover - Van Gasken House quilt square
Van Gasken House

Jan SweckerJan Swecker used Janette Moses Armstrong’s quilt square to construct the cover for the scrapbook.

Janet Anderson SmithJanet Anderson Smith took, gathered and scanned the photos for the scrapbook and web site. She also wrote and edited the text for both, and compiled the scrapbook.

Shelley VoieShelley Voie, Reference Librarian at Des Moines Library, created the Des Moines Historical Quilt web site.


Anita ShenebergerAnita Sheneberger, Children's Librarian at Des Moines Library and professional quilter, created the quilt square image in the Pieces of the Past logo. The design is a modified mariner’s compass in which the blue represents water, and green and brown represent timber.

Quilt Square for Logo

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