Thursday, April 18, 2024

Centennial Prints in Charm, Odd Fellows and Beggars' Patchwork

 I've been organizing my Centennial print files over the spring and occasionally posting about the 1876 Anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. The big event was in Philadelphia, an exhibition of international trade.

Home-made patchwork quilts were not really welcome in the fair's displays.

American fabric companies showed all kinds of wares. It was
a time to celebrate the developing American cotton industry as post-Civil-War
production improved the quality and availability of American-made prints. 

The small events that Centennial year were at local dry goods stores. Mills celebrated the anniversary and their skills with new prints commemorating the year. Knowing fabric collectors quite well I can imagine that these new American prints inspired some shopping.

A few weeks ago I did a post on how dull quilts in the year 1875 were. But the Centennial seems to have inspired new ideas with 1876's assortment of new prints in fashionable colors.

This purplish brown on a pale blue ground was
quite the thing in the 1870s.

If one has a collection one must display it. Centennial prints are often found in charm quilts, which were the perfect place to show off the new abundance of American-milled cottons.

For those unfamiliar with a charm quilt the Sacramento Union described them well in an account of needlework at the local 1879 fair.
"Charm quilt, Miss Hattie E. Sprague, 1,053 pieces, no two alike."

Commemorative handkerchief in the center of a charm quilt
pieced of one shape---a tumbler.

Period names other than "charm" include Odd Fellows or Beggar's Quilt.

Long hexagons 

The idea of a single shape repeated in a variety of fabrics seems to have become fashionable first in New England (where the mills were) in the 1870s.


  1. I like to look at charm quilts. Love studying the different fabrics and wondering where they all came from. Did the maker request pieces from friends & family? Could they get scraps from manufacturers? I can’t believe they had all that stuff in their stashes! I’m sure I could make a charm quilt from my stash, but I’m also quite sure that I won’t. That’d be a lot of time cutting. I bet I’d be called a “wastrel”, kind of like in your referenced article from before!

  2. There was probably a lot of trading going on. I've made three charm quilts---hardest part is trying to remember what's already in there.