Scrolling through eBay quilts last month I about dropped my cereal bowl into my computer keyboard.
(It's happened before---never pretty.)
The above quilt, a Nile green star with stuffed work leaves, was it the end of a thirty year quest?
Since the 1980s Merikay Waldvogel and I have been looking for the quilt that won the contest at the 1933 World's Fair.
Sears Roebuck and Company sponsored a spectacular contest in their home town in 1933. During the heart of the Great Depression the first prize was $1,000. Margaret Caden of Lexington, Kentucky took home the money with her Nile green star quilt with stuffed-work quilting
The quilt was given to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and hasn't been documented since 1934. We figure Eleanor gave it away as a souvenir. We've tried the White House collections, the Roosevelt house collections, the Roosevelt family, etc.
Could this be the missing quilt?
We went crazy with the possibilities. All we have is some fuzzy black and white photos of the missing quilt.
But Merikay noticed two things right off. The shading is wrong and when you examine the old photos you can see that the quilted grid of squares is closer together than in this one.
The prize winner on the left; the quilt for sale on the right.
I de-saturated the quilt in question above and it is quite obvious it is
NOT the missing quilt.
But soooo close.
So what is it?
Our first guess is a copy made from a Mountain Mist pattern called Star of the Bluegrass.
In 1948 the batting company bought the rights and began selling a pattern complete with the trapunto leaf design. On the left above a photo of the Mountain Mist quilt from one of their old batting wrappers. On the right the quilt for sale.
In fact Mountain Mist still sells this pattern.
(I don't know if they still include the quilting pattern.)
Lots of quilters made it. Here's a blue version probably from the 1940s or '50s, complete with the stuffed work leaves.
But the quilt for sale doesn't look like it was made after 1948. The greens are more like the early 1930s Nile green.
See a quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center probably made from the Mountain Mist pattern by clicking here:
The greens are different.
Then I remembered that Sears included a pattern right after the 1933 Fair in this booklet.
They actually sold a kit.
Here's the copy
"Answering thousands of requests for this pattern, we're now offering a complete outfit for making a similar quilt top, size about 72 x 90 inches. This includes the proper assortment of plain and printed "80 square" cotton patches... "
I assume the word outfit means kit and "80 square" must mean the grade of percale you'd be getting.
They also sold the quilting pattern for a quarter.The whole kit cost $3.25.
So you can see how much the $1,000 prize was worth.
I am guessing the quilt for sale was made from that kit.
We didn't get that quilt. It was in rather bad shape and WE DON'T EITHER OF US NEED ONE MORE QUILT....so I am glad we were outbid.
We could go on about the contest. And I probably will in future posts. Merikay has written about it extensively for the Quilt Index Gallery pages.
Click on the links for lots more:
Here are the prizewinners:
On the gallery page scroll down to Sears contest to see various gallery photos with comments by Merikay.
And by the way--- Margaret Caden didn't make that quilt. She kept the $1,000 and didn't give any of it to the women who did.
You'll have to read our book Patchwork Souvenirs to find out more.
See it over on the left.