Sunday, March 22, 2020

Ladder Back Chairs

These illustrations from the first half of the 20th century amuse me no end in colonial silliness. We have a woman in old-fashioned dress holding a thoroughly modern version of a crazy quilt.

The whole Colonial Revival movement was about establishing an "authentic" American sentiment,
but messages were mixed----old fashioned or modern? You could have it both ways.

Especially if you were illustrating quilt pattern publications.

Edith Crumb feature in the Detroit News.
I don't see a signature on the drawing. Edith Crumb used a couple of
ladder back chair illustrations to illustrate articles for her 
Quilt Club Corner Column

A silhouette 

Ruby McKim illustration

Who originated the fashion for colonial quiltmakers
in ladder back chairs?

Woman's World magazine used this quilt with an odd chair
for its quilt features.
UPDATE: Our New England expert Pam Weeks tells me it's a comb-back Windsor chair.

Another variation for the cover of a Woman's World pattern catalog in 1930.

Mary Sherwood Wright Jones for
Needlecraft September, 1928
Note the braided rag rug under her colonial feet.

From Grandmother Clark

Here's the weirdest combination of colonial and modern.
The crazy quilter looks to be living in a cell but it's just a
Bauhaus modern concrete bedroom with steel casement windows.
Maybe she's hemming drapes.

So who originated the cliche?

Got to be Wallace Nutting who did staged photos
of colonial interiors: Braided rug and wooden chairs a
standard prop in these framed photos extremely popular in the teens and 1920s.

See a post at my Woman's Work blog on Nutting and his wife Mariet
who was the art director on these influential glimpses of our "authentic" history.


  1. I grew up in an old Vermont classic white clapboard house built circa 1845. My mother was a Wallace Nutting fan, and decorated the house as such with antiques. Yup, it looked like those Wallace Nutting images, with several ladderback chairs. And yes, I would sit in one while my grandmother and I worked on finishing the crazy quilt blocks that her grandmother had started, only I was wearing bell bottoms.
    Thanks for the memories.

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