Patterico's Pontifications


The Swastika Quilt

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 3:22 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A Greeley, Colorado, museum has accepted the donation of a 1900-era quilt decorated with 27 swastikas. The museum plans to exhibit the quilt at some point, although with “plenty of context.” This would be educational. Is it worth it?


30 Responses to “The Swastika Quilt”

  1. That’s quite a jarring find. I agree it would be a great opportunity to display it and educational, given the necessary context.

    It’s also an opportunity to tie it in with the number of once innocuous (and not so innocuous symbols) co-opted by modern hate groups (Celtic Cross, Iron Cross, etc).

    Dana (1e5ad4)

  2. the original Division Patch for the 45th Infantry was a “swastika”…. the Plains Indians used the design for centuries.

    this quilt is nothing more than that.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  3. I suppose the really jarring thing is that it wasn’t destroyed along the way. Display, absolutely. Show the world what idiots with the power to change the meanings of symbols and glyphs can do to damage the world and those in it.

    htom (412a17)

  4. htom, I thought it was jarring because for one, I’ve seen a heckuva lot of historical quilts at shows but never one with swastikas adorning it, and two, it’s bizarre to see such a symbol decoratively hand stitched on such a piece of folk art.

    Dana (1e5ad4)

  5. The Nazi swatika was titled.

    Lazarus Long (9adfb0)

  6. Dana #4 – it should not be at all bizarre …

    A bunch of the North American tribes had/hae the swastika as one of their Goog/Light/Good Fortune symbols … a quilt-maker living peacefully near any of those tribes could easily have decided to include the symbol … it is like quilting including Kokopelli or the Thunderbird or other classic designs …

    In Glendale, CA, there is a Memorial Bridge at the south end of the city … it dates back to the late 1800s or very early 1900s … sometime after the end of WW II, some folk demanded that the bases for the lamp-posts on that memorial Bridge be removed, because they showed the swastika … and the bigots won, the bases were removed … making the local score – Nazis 1 – local Indian tribes (probably Chumash) 0 …

    Each time we allow such removal, we grant power to the Nazis and their descendants … on the other hand, each time, we retain the symbol in its proper context, we weaken any residual power the Nazis and their descendants may maintain … and I know which outcome *I* prefer …

    Alasdair (e7cb73)

  7. The fact is the swastica at one time wasn’t a symbol of evil. The nazis took it as a symbol of the regime based on the weird belief that they were the aryans that took over India several centuries ago. That is where they got the term, Aryans. And the swastica they used is taken from them. mind you, if you point it one way, it means “harmony”–more or less, good, in the buddhist way. Turn it the other, it means disharmony, or more or less, evil.

    The nazis turned it the “wrong” way, thus with ironic appropriateness announcing to any practicing buddhist that they were an evil movement.

    In the end no symbol, or even set of characters means anything except for what meaning we agree on. Ah, crap, i just got us into the intention issue again, didn’t i?

    Aaron Worthing (A.W.) (f97997)

  8. The swastika is a well recognized early Indic and Buddhist symbol routinely used in Asia. It’s possible that the Glendale bridge symbols may have come from a local Chinese community, and also possible that the ancestors of the Amerindian tribes brought the symbol with them in their migration from Asia.

    But it is worth it, if only to remind people that evil can only pervert and destroy, not create.

    kishnevi (60aae7)

  9. Alasdair, I wasn’t surprised by the usage of the symbol per se as I’m aware of the Native American usage of it as well as it not having always been associated with evil. I think most of us are.

    Again, what was surprising was I have never seen it actually incorporated into an early American quilt. That’s all.

    I think most of us are aware of the history of the symbol within different cultures throughout history, but again, it’s the first time I’ve seen it displayed in an early American quilt. To you it may not be bizarre, but to me I’m pretty sure the swastika as art will most likely always be a bit jarring. And I most likely never equate it with the Thunderbird, etc. It’s a stand alone.

    Dana (1e5ad4)

  10. A bunch of the North American tribes had/hae the swastika as one of their Goog/Light/Good Fortune symbols…

    Anyone ever been to the Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair, NM?

    Blacque Jacques Shellacque (cf2f34)

  11. Why do you all love the Nazis?

    JD (308d62)

  12. “plenty of context.”

    I don’t think a little explanation is out of order.

    Dave Surls (9a6ba2)

  13. “Why do you all love the Nazis?”

    Well, we’re all Nazi racists.

    That’s why we follow BusHitler.

    Dave Surls (9a6ba2)

  14. I have an old family postcard collection, and one of the cards from the 1910’s is a swastika with a little poem about how it is a symbol of good luck.

    I also used to live in a home built in 1920, and there were some beautiful cobalt tiles in the entryway- one was a swastika.

    Finally, it is a map symbol (although a little different) for Buddhist temples in Japan. It’s a little jarring at first, but I got very used to it.

    MayBee (c50b9d)

  15. There is some interesting reading on the Swastika Quilt Block here.

    Swastika quilt block, also known as: Battle Ax of Thor, Catch Me If You Can, Chinese 10,000 Perfections, Devil’s Dark Horse, Devil’s Puzzle, favorite of the Peruvians, Flyfoot, Heart’s Seal, Indian Emblem, Mound Builders, Pure Symbol of Right Doctrine, Spider, Virginia Reel, Wind Power of the Osages, Winding Blades, Whirligig, and Zig Zag.

    Also, Bride’s Quilts were made with the special token of good luck,

    In her book, American Quilts and Coverlets, (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1949), the late quilt historian, Florence Peto, states that, “A whirling swastika must be tucked somewhere in the quilting stitchery for it insured good fortune and fertility,”

    Dana (1e5ad4)

  16. Swastikas have an interesting history in hockey ( And if you’re ever in Windsor, Nova Scotia you can stop in at the modest little hockey hall of fame they have there and see lots of old team photos from the 1910s with giant swastikas on their sweaters.

    Gene (8da286)

  17. Since the 60s, leftist activists and politicians have obsessed with symbols, blowing them completely out of proportion as shortcuts around (or substitutes for) reasoned arguments.

    By all means display that quilt, and show clearly how its beneficial provenance in American Indian (and Indian Indian too) cultures preceded the Nazis by centuries. What a great demonstration of the abuse of symbols, and the reasons why they shouldn’t be given full credit for either good or evil until all their surrounding facts are known.

    I have an old edition of Rudyard Kipling’s writings, and the device on the spine of each book is the old Indian version of the (use Buddhist name here).

    Insufficiently Sensitive (8906ed)

  18. I inherited a swastika Navajo blanket made circa 1920.

    Obama's Neighbor (f28dac)

  19. Back in the ’60s, part of the multi-year confirmation process in the Lutheran church I went to was a bit of a tour of other religious sites and services. The most memorable was visiting the Baha’i center in Chicago’s North Shore. The carvings on the outside included a bunch of religious symbols, included the crooked cross. Can’t remember if it was a mirror image of the Nazi one–been way too long, and if I have pics, they aren’t handy.

    NK, is there still a Greek Orthodox church on Wolf Road, north of 31st? Visited there for a service, through the offices of a friend of my father’s.

    Red County Pete (3c494c)

  20. Dana #9

    I don’t remember from which side of the wife’s family we got it, but we have an old rug with Native American symbols thereon, and it includes the swastika …

    On a different possibly-startling tangent, I wonder how many regulars here realise that, due to Islam forbidding realistic depictions of anything living (theologically to avoid the possibility of idolatry), Arabs developed designs for rugs that can be used by trainee Ob/Gyns to teach recognisable female plumbing anatomy … and such designs are a form of (basically tolerated) Islamic porn …

    Alasdair (205079)

  21. In the 1970’s I attended Hopeville school in Waterbury CT. The school had swastikas in the decorative cornices around the roof line, about four stories up. As a fifth grader I pointed them out to a teacher at recess and was told the school had been built long before WWII and the symbol was an Indian good luck charm.

    Have Blue (854a6e)

  22. #

    Why do you all love the Nazis?

    Comment by JD — 6/28/2010 @ 6:30 pm

    Because they’re awesome.

    the racist homonculus that every liberal is utterly convinced lives deep deep in the heart of every actual, real life conservative (14208b)

  23. homunculus, dammit

    the racist homunculus that every liberal is utterly convinced lives deep deep in the heart of every actual, real life conservative, who is also illiterate (14208b)

  24. Check out the Military patch of the U.S.45th Infantry Division prior to WW2.
    As I remember it is diamond shaped with a red background and the swastika is gold.
    The Swastika was replaced by a gold Thunderbird.

    Paul Albers (23002d)

  25. Kipling used a swastika in his title page on a lot of his books because of his fondness for India and Indians. My brother was looking at my book of Kipling’s poems and told me that Kipling was an evil racist because of the swastika.


    Vivan Louise (643333)

  26. NK, is there still a Greek Orthodox church on Wolf Road, north of 31st? Visited there for a service, through the offices of a friend of my father’s.

    Comment by Red County Pete — 6/28/2010 @ 8:39 pm

    Yes, the Twelve Apostles. One of my nephews was a priest there for a time as well.

    nk (db4a41)

  27. I have a boy scouts of america ‘good luck’ coin from the early 20th century with a large swastika on one side. My grandfather got it in Texas when he was a boy.

    harkin (865845)

  28. Paul Albers, here is that patch.

    And they should definitely display the quilt. What an interesting piece of history.

    Myron (6a93dd)

  29. Wikipedia says about the 45th infantry patch:

    Before the 1930s, the division’s symbol was a red square with a yellow swastika, a tribute to the large Native American population in the south-western United States.

    Myron (6a93dd)

  30. Racist

    JD (959071)

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