1795 Eliza Bennis's "Irish Volunteers" Counterpane

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Eliza Bennis appliqued her initials “EB” and date “1795” in the center of the outer border of this counterpane. Although in fragile condition, this appliqued and embroidered textile is noteworthy. The center panel (21+” high x 28+” wide) is an early Irish printed fabric known as “Irish Volunteers” or “Volunteer Furniture.” The copper-plate design, probably drawn by Gabriel Beranger, is a representation of a Provincial Review in Phoenix Park (June 1782) near Dublin. It was printed by Thomas Harpur at Leixlip, Ireland. This particular fabric may have held significance for Eliza as her husband, in 1779, was instrumental in the formation of a Limerick corps of Irish Volunteers.
Elizabeth (Eliza) was born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1725, daughter of Isaac and Alice Patten. Eliza married Mitchell Bennis (1720-1788) in 1745. They had four children that reached adulthood. Eliza is significant in the history of Methodism and corresponded with John Wesley, among others. Journal of Elizabeth Bennis 1749-1779, begun in her 20s, is an accounting of her spiritual progress after she joined the Methodist Society. In her later years she emigrated from Limerick to Philadelphia and possibly brought the “Irish Volunteers” fabric or counterpane with her. She died in 1802. In 1809 her son, Thomas, published a book of her correspondence.
Currently not on view
National Museum of American History
Bennis, Eliza
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Bernardo
Physical Description
fabric, linen/cotton, cotton, linen (overall material)
thread, linen, silk, wool, cotton (overall material)
overall: 77 in x 84 in; 196 cm x 212 cm
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Home and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Object Name
ID Number
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