The Jacob's Ladder quilt block is believed to have been in existence since the late 19th or the early 20th century. It has not always been known by this name; it has also been called Underground Railroad, or Stepping Stones, just to name a couple. Because quilt block pattern books simply did not exist until more recent years, it is difficult to determine just when this block was first pieced. Quilt historian Barbara Brackman does not believe that this block was created before the early 1900s.
Jacob's Ladder is believed to have been named such for the biblical reference to a ladder "resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (Genesis 28:12, NIV). It is easy to see how the upward motion of the block symbolizes ascending a ladder. Similarly, the Stepping Stones name is appropriate, as the small blocks are easy to visualize as small stepping stones. Also, the block, with its upward motion, could be used to symbolize the Underground Railroad, and the movement of slaves up to freedom from slavery.
Photo source: About.com