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The Quilts of the Underground Railroad . Monkey Wrench. This was the first quilt to be displayed , Told the slaves that it was almost time to leave. The slaves understood this to mean “gather your tools for the journey”.

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The Quilts of the Underground Railroad


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    1. The Quilts of the Underground Railroad

    2. Monkey Wrench This was the first quilt to be displayed, Told the slaves that it was almost time to leave. The slaves understood this to mean “gather your tools for the journey”. If the plantation had a blacksmith, he was known as the “Monkey Wrench” Frederick Douglass was the 'monkey wrench' on his plantation prior to his escape..

    3. Wagon Wheel This was the second quilt displayed, indicating that it was time to pack the essential provisions for survival on their journey. Often wagons had secret compartments where slaves could be hidden.

    4. Carpenter’s Wheel • Slaves were to follow the carpenter's wheel west-northwest.

    5. Bear’s Paw Following the Bear's Paw prints in the woods would lead the slaves to food and water on their journey.

    6. Log Cabin This square had red centers, signifying the hearth at the center of the home. When the center was yellow, it signified that the light was on, and it was safe to come in.

    7. Basket • When a quilt made of Baskets was displayed on their journey, fugitive slaves would stay in hiding until food was brought to them.

    8. North Star The Big dipper points to the North Start. By following the North Star, they would always be heading in the right direction.

    9. Bow Ties Along their journey, their clothing became tattered and torn, drawing attention to them. When they saw a "Bow Tie" quilt hung to air out, it meant that they were to stay put, in hiding, and fresh clothing would be brought to them, enabling them to blend into society better.

    10. Flying Geese Slaves escaping in the spring should notice and follow the direction of the geese returning north for the summer. Abolitionists along the route would make quilts with just one of the 4 patterns different. By hanging the quilt to air out, it would point the direction the slaves were to follow.