WILLIAM RUSH DUNTON, JR.
Dr. William Rush Dunton Jr. received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1893 and worked as a psychiatrist and director of occupational therapy in Baltimore, Maryland. His professional study of mental illness helped to forge his philosophy that everyone should have at least two hobbies to stay healthy– one indoor and one outdoor.
He credited Marie Webster’s book Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them, published in 1915, with sparking his interest in quilts. He believed that cutting and sewing colorful pieces of cloth would distract his patients from their problems and that working on quilts together would be a socializing measure, combating loneliness and fostering happier thoughts.
He became a collector of quilts and quilt patterns, specializing in those from the Baltimore region where he lived. Dr. Dunton is best known to quilters for his book Old Quilts, which he published himself in 1946. The volume, the result of thirty years of research, remains a valuable source of documentation on Maryland and Baltimore Album quilts. Based on extensive research, this book is a study of evolving quilt styles of the 1800s, especially the elaborate album quilts.
Several of the quilts he collected along with his scrapbooks, patterns, photographs, correspondence and manuscripts for two other books are now the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Dr. Dunton died in December 1966, at the age of ninety-eight.
Photo courtesy of Henry H. Dunton
“It is easily understood that a nervous lady who is concentrating on making a quilt block has no time to worry over her fancied physical ill health or even over wrongs or slights which maybe real, so that she is cultivating a more healthy mental attitude and habit.”
William Rush Dunton, Jr.
Old Quilts (1946), pp.3-4