In 1852, possibly inspired by a fashion for quilts celebrating Whig politician Kentucky's Henry Clay, she'd begun writing to noted men, asking for their autographs.
Like many determined autograph hounds she could be a pest and poor Henry Clay, two months short of dying from tuberculosis, explained he could no longer gather signatures from colleagues like President Fillmore. He did ask friend John Crittenden to take over the task, however.
When the war began Mary seems to have sent out another round of letters. Correspondents responded with Union sentiments. The quilt evolved into a pictorial extravaganza.