The Charleston Museum presents an original exhibition, Early 20th Century Quilts in the Museum's Historic Textile Gallery. The exhibit spans the tumultuous years from 1900 through the 1930s, displaying the patterns and fabrics that make this era's quilts so distinctive. Periods of turmoil in the early 20th century, sparked by World War I, the coming of the second World War and social change born out of the Suffrage Movement, the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression, were met with renewed vigor by quilters across the country. While mass production and mail order sales of blankets and bedcoverings in the late 19th century might have briefly made the handmade quilt less desirable, women in all walks of life continued to find satisfaction, artistic expression, delight and even comfort in designing and sewing quilts such as those in Early 20th Century Quilts.
made in Pendleton, SC
This attractive quilt is composed of twenty blocks, each made of four nine-patch squares separated by crosses of two different prints. The red and black Garibaldi print border and sashing fabric reflects the darker color palate popular in the early part of the 20th century. It has a red and black print backing; there is cotton batting and a green binding. It is quilted in diagonal lines overall. There are some typical “conversation” prints in the tiny blocks, including horseshoes, crescent moons and flowers.
Gift of Mrs. John Bennett in 1929
made by Molly Jameson Baskett, Callaway County, MO
Pieced of blue, white and red cotton fabrics, the fifty-six blocks are set on point. Each white square is quilted with a wreath design. It has white cotton backing, thin batting and blue print binding. Star quilts have been popular throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It was made by the donor’s grandmother.
Gift of Capt. & Mrs. Thomas Slack Baskett in 1999
This lap quilt is made of 527 cigarette silks or silkies, the collectible ribbons that came in each package of cigarettes in the early 20th century. The silks are seamed together with decorative embroidery. The border is maroon velvet; the backing is pre-quilted maroon satin bordered with dark green velvet.
Designed to increase tobacco sales by encouraging collecting of the ribbons, these premiums pictured baseball players and theatre or opera stars (as seen here) along with world flags, international costumes, flowers, insects, and world leaders. Some of the baseball players in this quilt include Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers, John Titus of the Phillies and Rebel Oakes of the St Louis Nationals. The female stars include Billy Burke (later the Good Witch of the North in the Wizard of Oz), Gertrude Hoffman of vaudeville, and Elsie Ferguson, stage and film star.
Gift of Mary Alma Parker in 2008
Pieced of all wool fabrics, the black “path” is marked with yellow embroidery in a feather stitch along the curved edge in each block. The backing is dark red damask in a spider web design, turned to the front for the quilt’s binding. This piece has no batting and no traditional quilting. Usually created using only two contrasting colors, this example has many colorful scraps but relies on the use of black fabrics for its distinctive winding path. This pattern had many other names as well: Pumpkin Vine, Fool’s Puzzle, Wonder of the World and Country Husband. A few Drunkard’s Path quilts are associated with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, but the pattern was not designed for that purpose.
Ella (1877-1956) was born in Phoenix, SC, the daughter of Rev. John H. Dargan and Elizabeth Townes. She married Harry Legare Watson, the editor of the Greenwood Index in 1900. They had eight children including the donor’s mother, Ella Virginia who married Wade Hampton Logan of Charleston.
Gift of Julia McIver Logan in 2002
made by Doris Beckman Schwettmann, Charleston
This delightful quilt was perhaps made from a pattern published by a company like Mountain Mist®, who began printing patterns on their batting wrappers in 1930. Twenty-three appliquéd water lilies and lily pads are surrounded by a scalloped green border, a wide white border with quilted flowers, and an outer border of appliquéd interlocking scallops. It has a white backing, thin batting and green binding.
Doris (1871-1950), born in Palmetto, GA, and married Charleston pharmacist Dr. Frederick William Schwettmann. Her grandson was the donor’s husband.
Gift of Pauline C. Martschink (Mrs. Fred J.) in 1999
Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday