Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Katherine Hamburger & Her One Hundred Quilts


Katherine Webb Hamburger (1884-1957) showing off her 
"Anne Hathaway's Cottage" quilt in 1946.
It is primarily pieced of hexagons (16,000 pieces she counted)
and took 40 yards of fabric. That would be one heavy quilt.

Katherine was quite proud of this portrayal of Shakespeare's wife's thatched home in England.

She showed her quilts often in small exhibits in Chicago in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Several newspaper articles describe them but the above picture of the Hathaway quilt is the only one I've been able to find pictured.

A 1946 article describes a Shirley Temple portrait quilt and
a group portrait of the sewing circle she founded The Stitch & Chatter Club.
How could such things just disappear?

1943 portrait from a newspaper article

Katherine made nearly 100 quilts according to this 1955 story.

Like many master quiltmakers Katherine had family in the clothing business. Her husband James Louis Hamburger is consistently listed as a cutter in a tailoring shop in the 20th century censuses. In 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression he's listed as unemployed. I believe she won $50 for the Hathaway quilt at a Detroit News contest in the 1930s, a prize that was undoubtedly welcome. 

Quilt Alliance photo of Detroit News display

The Detroit News had an influential quilt feature managed by Edith Crumb
and sponsored an annual contest for several years. Katherine entered contests around the country and must have picked up other ribbons and prize money.

Chicago Tribune 1946

Katherine's Stitch & Chat club met in a special period room at her house at 11435 St. Louis Street in the Kedzie/Pulaski neighborhood.

Members occasionally dressed in "period" costumes she'd made for them.

Members of Tuley Park Quilt Club

Katherine Hamburger was a Chicago peer of Mary Gasperik who was inducted into the Quilters' Hall of Fame this summer. Mary belonged to the Chicago Park District's Tuley Park Quilt Club, well recorded by the Park District.

The whole milieu of quilting in Chicago in the 1930s in quite a story of social life and masterful needlework.

A digression on cottages:
The International Quilt Museum owns this quilt by Sarepta Gillis (1887-1969) of Mound City, Missouri north of St. Joseph by the Nebraska state line. I wonder if it's a version of Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Apparently there was a pattern for this one. Stephanie Higginson has found three.

And Laura Fisher had this one in her inventory.

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