Thursday, October 7, 2021

1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition #5 Columbian Wheel Quilts


Quilt backing made from souvenir handkerchiefs from the
 1893 World's Fair. The words "World's Columbian Exposition Chicago, 1893"
 are printed in a circle. 

When looking in old newspapers for information about quilts at the Columbian Exposition one comes across an intriguing name. Above an invitation to a Marion County, Illinois, party on January 1, 1897 where you could eat oysters and bid on "The Columbian Quilt."

What is a Columbian quilt?

BlockBase+ shows six pieced designs with the name Columbia or Columbian, but I doubt that a quilt in one of these published patterns is what the newspapers meant.

Another Illinois reference in 1896. Maybe the same quilt but with a clue...
"a missionary 'Columbian' quilt'"

Crime in St. Louis the year of the Chicago fair, 1893
Stolen last December...."a new fancy Columbia quilt with ship in center."

More clues...

From St. Paul, Minnesota in April, 1893 
(The Fair opened May 1, 1893)
"The Columbian quilt...something both pretty and odd. The names on the quilt."
Maybe a Columbian quilt is a fundraising quilt, embroidered or inked with names,
quite a popular style in the 1890s.

The best clue yet from Kansas City, Kansas.
"The Columbian wheel quilt..."

1917 from the Connecticut project and the Quilt Index

I bet a Columbian quilt is a fundraiser name quilt with the names arranged in wheel fashion.

Here's one dated 1894 from a Mormon congregation in Boise City, Idaho. The names are inked. Red and white was a popular color scheme. Here the red is Turkey red, which holds its color.

Collection of the Vigo County Historical Society
Indiana Project & the Quilt Index
Someone embroidered 1,000 names on this quilt dated 1893 for a German Methodist Church in Terra Haute, Indiana. Again buying genuine Turkey red embroidery thread was a good investment.

West Virginia Project & the Quilt Index

Wheel quilts were a popular way to make money and incidentally record a community. This one dates to the 1930s. One usually paid a dime to be included and a quarter for a central position on the wheel.

Here's one from my collection, Unionville, Missouri. Too bad
they didn't buy Turkey red cotton.

A Columbian wheel quilt. 
Why a wheel? Then I remembered:

The Great Wheel

Hoping to create a monumental symbol of the Expo like Paris's Eifel Tower, engineer George Ferris designed a ride for the amusement park at the fair, 25 stories high. Each of those cars, enclosed like a tram car, carried 60 riders. Over 2,000 riderss at a time could enjoy a phenomenal view in a 20-minute ride.

New York Public Library Collection

The 1893 fair introduced Cracker Jacks and the Ferris Wheel---and gave a name to the circular-patterned fundraising quilts.

Block dated 1938 from the Massachusetts project
and the Quilt Index

The idea of the wheel fundraiser lasted longer than the name Columbian Wheel Quilt, which seems to have been forgotten soon.

George Ferris never made any profits from his money-making engineering feat despite his law suits. But then he was dealing with the Midway entrepreneurs. See post #2 on Mary Queen of Scots:

Tomorrow: The Women's Building.

1 comment: