Thursday, March 30, 2023

Making the Bed


Library of Congress
Couple photographed about 1940 in Hamilton County, Ohio near
Cincinnati by Carl Mydans for the Farm Security Administration 

I grew up in Cincinnati and this is housekeeping my mother would have been horrified to see. We were, as she told us, "Lace-Curtain Irish." Many of us grew up in middle class homes with bedmaking dictated by the arbiters of good housekeeping.

As in this ad in Good Housekeeping magazine for new fitted sheets, 1950s.

Our perspective on proper bedroom interiors is one reason it is so hard for us to understand why so many quilts looked like this:

Whether plain or fancy...

From Georgia Quilts

To give you a crash course in bedmaking alternative styles I've found photos from the Library of Congress's files for the Farm Security Administration taken in the late 1930s. They are mostly by Russell Lee who had a good eye for interior details and seemed to like to photograph quilts while telling us of the needs of poor America.

Ingram Family, Alvin, Wisconsin, 1937
Russell Lee captioned this room as in a shack shared
by two poor families.

1937, Russell Lee, Corpus Christi, Texas

Bed as office. I do a lot of that. Dog instead of baby as assistant.

1939, Russell Lee, Waggoner, Oklahoma

1938, Russell Lee, New Madrid County, Missouri

Russell Lee, Crystal City, Texas

1939, Russell Lee, Sallislaw, Oklahoma
A Trundle Bed

1937, Arthur Rothstein, Allegheny County, New York
Bed with side slats

1941, Jack Delano, Greensboro, Alabama

Ringgold, Arkansas

If we want to understand quilt history we have to understand their function as bedding, considering that different housing styles create a need for different quilt style.

Dick Sheldon, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 

I'm trying not to be so bourgeois. Need a wider world view.

A little history:

Saturday, March 25, 2023

String Pieced Tulips


Here's a pattern that seems to have been passed around hand to hand rather than through the commercial network of pattern publications. It's all pieced; see the seam going from the brown striped fabric on the left to the edge of the block.

The examples I see in online auctions tend
to look mid-20th century.

Pieced & appliqued, a rather singular single tulip.

More common 4-way version

Like most string quilt variations there was no 
published source.

Stitchers adapted common tulip designs.

Often a modified version of this Ladies' Art Company
design called Four Tulips

Madge Zeigler's  collection
But the pattern is simpler---no complex curves

And even though I cannot find a published pattern for that 
simpler pieced tulip it was quite the thing; this one maybe 1940s 
or '50s from Ileana Villazon's inventory.

And here's another version that looks to be about 1900
 (dated by the claret wine print sashing) with that characteristic 
South Carolina coastal taste for a chintz-scale border.


The best known example of the string tulip may be a 
single tulip on the cover of  the Georgia Quilts book.

Made by sisters Mary Elizabeth Sullivan Parham (1869-1957) 
& Annie Sullivan Parham (1876-1965). Both Sullivans married Parhams.
I mentioned this quilt in my book Making History: Quilts & Fabric
From 1890-1970

This is not quite the same story as the one I copied in the book
and it's not quite clear which is correct.
See Mary Lizzie's Find-A-Grave file:

The idea of a single tulip was rather unusual before the Georgia book but the cover was such a knock-out that many were inspired by the Parham quilt.

Including friends Buffy & Nifty

Like Buffy (Sally LeBoeuf), I used striped fabric:

Georgia Tulip
See a pattern in my book Making History

Georgian Tulips---Look for a pattern on Etsy

String Tulip, Sue Maddox at Cowslip Workshops

Here's the pattern from Making History (on its side to
fit on a sheet of printer paper.)

I've been thinking about the more common pieced four-way design.
Since it's not in BlockBase I thought I'd draw a pattern for the
basic piecing.

This fits on an 8-1/2" wide sheet.

And here's one quarter---larger.

Like most string pieced designs it seems to have been a Southern favorite.

An exception:
The New Jersey Project found this one attributed to 
Elizabeth Glass (1867-1938) of Crosswicks, New Jersey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Chicago's 1933 Quilt Contest Updated


Merikay Waldvogel and I talked about the 1933 Chicago World's Fair Quilt Contest in a Textile Talk for the Quilt Alliance on Wednesday this week. She reminds me that it's been 30 years since we published a book on the topic.

The Textile Talk has been uploaded to the Alliance's You-Tube page. View it anytime 

Our book is way out-of-print but you can buy copies at the usual used book sites. 

We were delighted to be invited to discuss the contest and the outcome, which has kept us in an indignant state of mind for quite a few decades. 

We are indignant about several things, mainly that the winner of the big prize did not put a stitch in the quilt. We discuss how Margaret Rogers Caden manipulated the rules in today's episode. Not only did she refuse to share credit with Ellen Mainous and the actual Kentucky stitchers, she did not share the cash.

We are also indignant about another outcome that we didn't have time to discuss much in the program. The many judges ignored the written rules.  

Minneapolis store
The contest was set up as a series of regional finals at big Sears stores around the country. Prizes of about $200 were given for first place winners in the regionals.

Local judges awarded the lesser prizes.

Winners then went to Chicago, home of Sears & the fair, where a  national first, second and third prize were awarded.

Sears, a big newspaper advertiser, used their influence to
obtain a lot of column inches in the spring of 1933.

Their publicity department published the contest rules in February during the depths of the Great Depression, no doubt attracting the attention of many who would have made good use of that $1000 first prize. Many also noticed the bonus prize offered: An extra $200 "If the Grand National Prize Winner is an original design commemorating The Century of Progress."

Samantha Allison Wise

$1,200 was an enormous amount of money in 1933. You could buy 2 Ford sedans at $450 each and have $300 left over for a road trip to Chicago.

Despite the time constraints---they had 3 months to complete a commemorative quilt and get it to the contest---many, many people took up the challenge.

Chicago Historical Society

Dora Hurless of Chicago used fair imagery on hers with the special Sears building in the center. The file on this mentions that blue ribbon attached to it as a first prize award, but it wasn't. A plethora of ribbons were awarded at all levels. The ribbon does tell us that Dora got this finished in three months and entered it at some level.

Kansas City Star, July 2, 1933

We know Dora did not win a first because no one received the promised $1,200. Most of the judges seem not to have been instructed to give special consideration to commemorative quilts or they just ignored the rule. Above the four final judges, including the woman at left Sue Roberts who worked at Sears. They awarded $1,000 to a very traditional star quilt. True, it was innovative in its Nile green coloring and beautifully done by Ellen Mainous's team but there was no imagery from the fair.

Ida Stow who made this quilt with the fair logo was herself indignant that she and her mother had worked all spring on a commemorative only to find the category ignored.

 Perhaps in response to her complaint Sears showed a few of the commemoratives at the 1934 reprise of the fair with Ida's in a place of honor.

Helen Billick of Gary, Indiana was invited to show hers in 1934.

Quilters interpreted the call for imagery commemorating the Century of Progress exposition in a variety of ways but quite a few included an image of the Sears exhibit building at the fairgrounds.

Lora McKinley Montgomery of Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne Museum
Detail of another Fort Wayne quilt, this one by mother & daughter team
Cathryn Elizabeth Wolford Burns Cowic & Mary Cecile Cowic Finton.

Rosetta Scott of Prescott, Arizona

I always say "It couldn't have hurt your chances to advertise
their building."

Anna Hansen's building features two modern modes
of transportation, an airplane and a dirigible. One
of the general fair themes was A Century of Progress in Transportation.

Unknown maker

Mississippi Heritage Museum
Mrs. Wardie Conner Hill, Falkner, Mississippi

Transportation: A topic Elizabeth Skelly Fitzgerald of Highland Falls,
New York covered thoroughly.

Photo from the Baltimore Sun archives showing a quilt
that must have been made on the theme of transportation progress
and also a Century of Progress in architecture.

Chicago Historical Society
Elizabeth Weigand, Muskegon, Michigan

Chicago's motto is "I will." Elizabeth put the "I Will Woman"
in the center of her satin quilt.

Another city image is the Y, representing the Chicago River, in the center of this wheel of progress.

Municipal building

Embroidered exhibit buildings

Sold at a Pook & Pook auction

International Quilt Museum
Emma Mae Leonhard of Virginia, Illinois quilted progress in transportation in the borders
and appliqued a Century of Progress in clothing fashion.

Chicago's history from its settlement by European-American culture in
1833 is also a theme. Here: Fort Dearborn the first outpost
in the center and the Great Chicago Fire to the right.

Mary O'Halloran Fitzgerald's Fort Dearborn
updated with a scalloped border and the newly popular Nile green.

Chicago Historical Society
Bertha Stenge, Chicago

Progress and a Peacock

Pearle Berton Konitzer, Appleton, Wisconsin
And then there is text...
Sometimes tricky to applique

Jeanette Morgan Longsworth, Racine, Ohio
You could use a pieced alphabet from the Ladies' Art Company catalog.

Online auction

Richard  & Lucille Rowley, Chicago
This aerial view of the fairgrounds now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
 is traveling with their exhibit Fabric of a Nation.

Some people like the Rowleys were really good at this
and obviously should have won a cash prize.

Another husband/wife team Linda & Clarence Rebenstorff
of Stevens Point, Wisconsin did impressive portraits.

While others had more enthusiasm than drafting skills.

Zada Chapman, New Smyrna, Florida

Amelia Stram Greinger, Minnesota

Henry Ford Museum Collection
 Zemma Haynes Taylor, Farmersville, Louisiana

Do go to Merikay's files at the Quilt Index, which include many
of these quilts.

 Some pictures here I have found in auctions and others just
floating around the internet.

Olive Thomas Wetzel, Nashville, Illinois

And some are from our book, which still looks pretty good 30 years later.
The Quilt Alliance records their Textile Talks so if you miss it this afternoon you can watch it later.

Quilt Index but I can't find it again. Pioneer Days...Century of Progress
1849 to 1933???