Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Roosevelt Rose Quilt


In January, 1934 Good Housekeeping magazine published The Roosevelt Rose quilt pattern. Franklin Roosevelt had been inaugurated as President nearly a year earlier during the depths of the Great Depression.

Journalist Ruth Finley was an expert at public relations and she and Helen Koues, an editor at Good Housekeeping, persuaded First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to accept this quilt for the White House quilt collection (no where to be found in the recent past.) 

The quilt was a medallion floral appliqued to black sateen. Flowers were composed of yo-yos as seen in this version:

Version from the International Quilt Museum Collection
A pink piping strip ("lipstick red?") framed the center.

Caption from a Guthrie, Oklahoma paper in January, 1934

The story was widely distributed in early 1934 by the Central Press Syndicate, a subsidiary of King Features, bringing much public attention to Good Housekeeping and Ruth Finley, author of a 1929 book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them. Picture captions varied but themes were definitely repeated.

Helen Koues (1882-1960) who specialized in architecture
and interior design at Good Housekeeping presented the quilt to the First Lady

Another syndicated story. I am sparing you the copy as there is
already too much misinformation on the internet. Ruth Finley tells
us her design is the "First Quilt Named for a President Since Lincoln."

Yeah! Well what about Mr. [Theodore] Roosevelt's Necktie
 from the Clara Stone newspaper group about 1910.
I could go on but
1) I digress.
2) Us Know-It-Alls get tired of arguing with Ruth Finley.

The Know-It-Alls discussed this version of the "Roosevelt Rose "in Xenia Cord's Legacy Quilts booth in our Episode #19 road trip to San Diego where we were a bit lost without our digital files--- relying on the memory files. The different quilts shown here are like this one....versions. Something we wondered about.

We agreed the quilt on the right is a better design than the Ruth Finley pattern. We also agreed it was unlikely that Finley actually made the quilt as the Good Housekeeping pattern said in 1934. The newspaper feature tells a different story. Ruth Finley designed it. We don't have any evidence that she actually sewed quilts.

The anonymous version from the International Quilt Museum's collection 
is close to the photograph but with fewer floral vines and hasn't the scalloped edge. 

Top made by Annie McGlasson Pennington (1889-1964), Abilene, Texas
The Texas project recorded this version, quilted later by the maker's grandson's wife.
Another version on black sateen with neither piping nor scallop.

A 2011 article in Texas Monthly about the Texas project may explain why these are all "versions" and no two are alike:
"The pattern, which could be purchased for 25 cents from the magazine’s Needlework Department, gave instructions for making the appliquéd flowers and yo-yos, or puffs, but it left their placement to the whim of the quiltmaker. Thus, though most Roosevelt Rose quilts were black cotton sateen, there are no two identical versions."

Found in an Illinois antique shop---
with an actual Lipstick Red piping.

Chicago Tribune
February 18, 1934

Chicago Tribune
April 15, 1934

Quiltmakers may have purchased their pattern from the Chicago Tribune, which advertised a new booklet of designs from their quilt column run by the fictional Nancy Cabot a few months later. The booklet was also sold by Peerless Fashion Service, a syndicated needlework and dress pattern business out of New York. So there were several pattern sources, probably none with an actual diagram as to how to construct the medallion.

June 13, 1934
The Mason City Globe Gazette ran the Peerless syndicate's ads.

Fellow Know-It-All Merikay Waldvogel had a copy of the 
Cabot/Peerless booklet and here is the pattern.

Confirming our suspicion that you didn't get much
of a pattern. Nowhere does it mention yo-yos...

See more about Peerless Fashion at Wilene Smith's Quilt History Tidbits site:


You can buy a copy of our Know-It-Alls Episode #19 in which we discuss the quilt in Xenia's booth. $12---watch it anytime:


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