Mary Gasperik Legacy Project

Chicago, Illinois, United States


Mary Gasperik with her granddaughter Susan Salser.


A lecture originally delivered by Susan Salser on July 17th, 2021 at the Quilter's Hall of Fame induction of Mary Gasperik, in Marion Indiana. Reenacted and recorded August 15th 2021 with Merikay Waldvogel, Kathy Jacob, and Cathy Salser.

The Mary Gasperik Quilts consist of more than 80 full-sized quilts plus numerous miniatures and studies created in Chicago between 1933 and 1967 by Hungarian immigrant and award winning quiltmaker Mary Gasperik. Nearly all the quilts are dispersed among her descendants, who generously supported this project spearheaded by grand-daughter Susan Salser. This online collection of all her existing quilts is the Quilt Index's first private collection.

Mary Gasperik fits into a very important historic period of immigration, growth, and American experience. Mariska Mihalovits was born in Hungary in 1888. At the age of 16, together with her 18 year old sister, she emigrated from a rural village in the province of Torentál to the United States. She was recorded at Ellis Island as Mariska, the Hungarian form of the English name Mary. She remained in Chicago and became an American citizen. She married fellow Hungarian Stephen Gasperik in 1906, and raised three children: Stephen, Elsie and Elmer.

At the age of 45, Gasperik encountered quilts for the first time at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition. With help from a local quilt club, she quickly adapted her already well-developed needlework skills to quiltmaking. She then devoted her life to that most American form of needlework - quiltmaking; though her quilts very much reflect her Hungarian roots. Thus, she left an incredible record in material culture at a time when few women left such records for study and research. These quilts and her story are not just important for quilt history, but also for women's history and for American history.

The Quilts reflect her artistic development--from neophyte quiltmaker to prizewinning quilt designer. She sought out others for lessons and advice, she used commercial patterns for patterns and quilting designs, but she also ventured into making her own original designs. She entered contests and garnered the most praise from the Detroit News Quilt columnist Edith Crumb. She died in 1969, having made about 100 quilts.

The Quilt Documentation began in 1992, when Karen Finn and Susan Salser assisted The Amador Valley Quilt Guild in organizing an exhibition of Mary Gasperik's quilts at the Ravenswood Historic Site in Livermore, California. Forty-five quilts were on display and information was gathered for the exhibition catalogue. The gathering together of these quilts and 22 others collected but not displayed allowed them to be professionally photographed under uniform conditions. In the ensuing 15 years, Susan Salser located or identified the remaining quilts and worked to identify every single quilt pattern, quilting design, or packaged quilt kit that her grandmother used.

The final result is not only the most complete photographic record of one woman's quilts, but also an invaluable resource of period photographs, newspaper accounts, and quiltmaking ephemera.

-- Merikay Waldvogel, July 2008

Research Update
In March 2021 a previously unknown plastic box containing 40 Gasperik quilt ribbons was given to the family. These 40 include a 1940 and a 1941 from the Indiana  State Fair, 6  Honorable Mention Ribbons from Detroit, 1937 and 1938, and  5 other ribbons ranging from a rosette blue to a fourth  place pink from Detroit in 1940.  The remaining 27 are Illinois State Fair ribbons from 1941, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958 and 1960. Prior to March 2021, family members had 14 physical ribbons plus evidence that at least 17 more must have existed.

Two ribbons awarded Mary Gasperik for her quiltmaking.

-- Susan Salser, March 2021

Financial support for this project was provided by the Salser Family Foundation. Merikay Waldvogel served as the major consultant, supported by Quilt Index staff member, Justine Richardson.

Many thanks to the Gasperik quilt owners: the daughters of Elsie Gasperik Krueger, the children of Elmer Gasperik, the daughters of Stephen Gasperik, and Attila Hajdu, the owner of the Gasperik quilt which Mary Gasperik sent to Hungary. Special thanks to The Los Angeles County Museum of Art for permission to use their photographs of Wedding Quilt, made for niece Mary Bruland.

Read How I Researched the Mary Gasperik Collection by Susan Salser, here.
Notes on The Detroit News Quilt Club columns are here.

Gender: Female. Birth date: 1888. Ethnicity: Hungarian. Born in: Chicago, Illinois, United States. Maiden name: Mihalovits. Spouse's/spouses' name(s): Gasperik, Stephen.

View all records in this project


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