Quilts Round A 'Bend' Onto Stamps

Quilts of Gee's Bend postage stamps
Virtual Stamp Club
This story was written by's Lloyd A. de Vries.

"Who would've thought that would happen down here ... that we can have some of our quilts on a stamp?" Mary Lee Bendolph told

The fact that the quilts created by her and nine other residents of Gee's Bend, Ala., are going to be on this year's American Treasures series has the whole, primarily African- American community buzzing.

"Every time I look, somebody is calling me, asking me about it. I tell them I'm very happy about it," she said.

The Quilts of Gee's Bend, which will be featured on 10 stamps being issued Aug. 24, are known for their unexpected color combinations, bold patterns and improvised designs.

Bendolph's design, called "Housetop," is the first stamp on the top left of the booklet of stamps. The design seems almost like modern art.

"OK, I go with that," she said with a laugh — perhaps because she wasn't really trying to show a housetop.

"I don't know the name of it. They just named it 'Housetop,'" she explained.

The biggest (part) of the quilt is made of leftover scrap. In this case, it was a pair of pants she found at her daughter's house in Connecticut while visiting.

"If you wore 'em, you loved 'em — and when you done wore 'em out, you take 'em and try to make something else out of 'em," she told

In fact, all of the quilts from the poor, rural, isolated Alabama community include scrap materials. Gee's Bend is surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River. There's only one road running into town.

Past entries in the American Treasure series have included folk art, such as Native American blankets, and paintings by artists such as John James Audubon and Mary Cassatt. The very first set in the series, a mere four stamps showing Amish Quilts, was issued in 2001.

Entries in the series often make their debut at "Stampshow," one of the biggest stamp collecting shows of the year, sponsored by the American Philatelic Society. This year's show, and the "first day" ceremony launching the stamps, will be held in Rosemont, Ill., a suburb of Chicago near O'Hare Airport.

Will Bendolph be at the first-day ceremony?

"If the Good Lord say the same, I will," she said. "If nothing will happen, I'll go."

By Lloyd A. de Vries