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Beauty in Hard Times
Depression Era Quilts in Nebraska

Patterns and Kits

The production and selling of quilt patterns, quilt kits, and quilting supplies thrived during this era. Newspaper and magazine columns featured quilt patterns produced by well-known quilt designers such as Marie Webster, Rose Kretsinger, Anne Orr, and Ruby McKim. Other columns evoked nostalgia by attributing their designs to fictional characters with familial names like Aunt Martha or Grandmother Clark. Pattern publishers often used existing patterns as their own with little more than a name change. Many newspaper readers thought syndicated patterns were unique to that particular paper.

Patterns also came in books and as part of quilt supply packaging-most famously with the packaging of Mountain Mist quilt batting. For those who could afford it, companies began to sell stamped patterns and stencils, pre-cut fabric pieces, assembled blocks, and even completely assembled quilts. Some scholars believe all of this led to the decline of regional and familial quilting styles and promoted a generic national quilt aesthetic.


Home Arts Needlecraft,
January 1936 (pdf)

Nebraska Farmer
magazine,
May 1933

Nebraska Farmer
magazine,
April 1933



Mosaic/Flower Garden
Mother of Irma Cruse
Made in Hastings, Nebraska
1930s-1940s
97" x 69"
Hastings Museum
35071




Tulip & Morning Glory
May Walker & Minnie Goodwin
Made in Lincoln, Nebraska
1931
85" x 85"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: David D. Whitney, Lincoln
6081-107

Post-World War I improvements in synthetic dye manufacturing resulted in increased production of colorfast fabrics in a broad array of colors. Light colors and pastels were very popular in the late 1920s through the 1950s. This quilt is a good example of that trend. David Whitney, professor of zoology at the University of Nebraska, paid May Walker and Minnie Goodman $100 to make this quilt in 1931. (That's $1,214.97 today!) We believe this is from a kit, as the International Quilt Study Center collection holds an identical quilt.



Dresden Plate
Ada Cecelia Peterson
Made in Clay County, Nebraska
1930s
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Nancy Nelson, Bedford, Texas
13132-1

This quilt was made by Ada Christina Cecelia Johnson Peterson of Clay County, Nebraska. The daughter of Swedish emigrants, Ada was born August 7, 1880, in Swede Home, Nebraska.

13132, Ada Peterson
Ada Peterson



Double Wedding Ring
Jessie Shimmin & Mattie Shimmin
Made in Hooker County, Nebraska
1940
80.5" x 68.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Agnes Poehler, Antioch, Illinois
13112-1

This Double Wedding Ring quilt was hand pieced and hand quilted by mother and daughter Mattie and Jessie Shimmin of Hooker County, Nebraska, in 1940. The two backing pieces and the binding were machine sewn. It was created as a wedding present for Mattie's granddaughter.

 Mattie Shimmin

 Jessie Shimmin

compare double wedding ring patterns

Compare Woman's World magazine, October 1931, (left column)
and Nebraska Farmer magazine, February 1930 (right column of the pdf)



Sunbonnet Sue & Overall Sam
Maker Unknown
Made in Smithfield, Nebraska
Circa 1935
82.5" x 72"
Nebraska Prairie Museum

In 1900 Bertha Corbett Melcher published a book called The Sunbonnet Babies. Her illustrations were used to decorate household items and became the basis for what is commonly known as the Sunbonnet Sue quilt pattern.
 



Tulip

Dora Christena Latham
Made in Cambridge, Nebraska
Circa 1935
78.25" x 71.25"
Cambridge Museum
 

This Tulip quilt was made by Dora Christena Latham who was born in Illinois in 1879 and moved with her parents to a homestead four and a half miles north of Cambridge, Nebraska, in 1880.

 



Puff

Sarah Jane Guthrie
Made in Grand Island, Nebraska
Circa 1930
76.5" x 64.5"
Hastings Museum
30893


Sarah Jane Guthrie made this quilt when she was in her eighties.

 



Grandmother's Flower Garden

Pearl Aegerter
Made in Randolph, Nebraska
1930s
83" x 81.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: John Aegerter, North Billemca, Massachusetts
11860-1

Pearl Aegerter hand made this quilt in the 1930s. Born in Iowa, Pearl moved with her family to Randolph, Nebraska, around 1898. In addition to quilting, Pearl was accomplished at knitting, tatting, and crocheting.

 


Trip Around the World

Katherine Enevold Grunwald
Made in Omaha, Nebraska
1920s-1930s
70" x 68.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Berno Marie Anderson, Lincoln
13046-2

Perhaps influenced by the lighter colors used in fashion in the early twentieth century, textile manufacturers began producing fabric in new lighter colors with a heavy emphasis on pastels. This influence is seen in the color palette of many Depression era quilts and exemplified here.

Katherine Enevold Grunwald, the maker of this quilt, was born in Germany in 1870 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1889 to live in Omaha with her sister. She married Bernhard Grunwald, who had emigrated from East Prussia about the same time she did. Katherine and Bernhard lived in Omaha all their married life and had three children and one grandchild, Berno Marie Anderson, who inherited and donated this quilt. Katherine was known for her handwork skills and excelled at tatting, needlepoint, and quilting.
 



Floral Bouquet

Maker Unknown
Made in Nebraska
1930s
95" x 73.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Lois Gaylord, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
13160-8

The donor of this quilt indicated that it was purchased at the Miller & Paine department store in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is unknown what she meant by this. While Lincoln quilters recall that Miller & Paine sold quilt kits and hosted quilt shows, they do not recall the store selling finished quilts.
 


Flower Garden
Wilhelmine Ziemke Foth
Made in Ord, Nebraska
1930
83" x 74"
International Quilt Study Center
2004.020.0001

   


Floral Bouquet

Maker Unknown
Made in Nebraska
1930s
89" x 80"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Lois Gaylord, Chesnut Hill, Massachusetts
13160-10

The donor of this quilt indicated that it was purchased at the Miller & Paine department store in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is unknown what she meant by this. While Lincoln quilters recall that Miller & Paine sold quilt kits and hosted quilt shows, they do not recall the store selling finished quilts.


Sun Bonnet Sue

Ada Cecelia Peterson
Made in Clay County, Nebraska
1930s
79.5" x 78.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Nancy Nelson, Bedford, Texas
13132-2

This quilt was made by Ada Christina Cecelia Johnson Peterson of Clay County, Nebraska. The daughter of Swedish emigrants, Ada was born August 7, 1880, in Swede Home, Nebraska.


Dresden Plate

Helen Salter Inhelder
Made in Nebraska
1930s
93" x 62"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Dori Stack, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
13012-1

The maker of this quilt, Helen Salter Inhelder, grew up in Pierce, Nebraska, and later taught in the Plainview High School. It is believed this quilt was made for a hope chest.


Colonial History

Paulina Mangold
Made in Bennington, Nebraska
Circa 1938
86" x 68"
IQSC
1997.007.0786



Butterflies

Mrs. Joseph Perkin
Made in Maywood, Nebraska
1940
93" x 92"
IQSC
2002.003.0001

Perhaps influenced by the lighter colors used in fashion in the early twentieth century, textile manufacturers began producing fabric in new lighter colors with a heavy emphasis on pastels. This influence is seen in the color palette of Depression era quilts.



Covered Wagon States

Mildred Bradstreet Stevens & The Busy Thimbles
Made in Columbus, Nebraska and Arizona
1939-1940 & 1980s
87" x 76"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Sylvia A. Stevens, Apache Junction, Arizona
11384-1

This quilt is based on patterns that appeared in the Omaha World-Herald in the late 1930s. Mildred Bradstreet Stevens and her friends worked on the quilt together in Columbus, Nebraska. Mildred carried it with her as her family moved several times over the years. In the 1980s, while living in Arizona, she donated money to a church group and they completed the quilt.



Trip Around the World / Chicago Pavement Variation

Leona Hake, Betty Rohner, & Emma Gelston Rohner
Made in Columbus, Nebraska
1935-1940 & 2001
87" x 69"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Betty Cowan, Columbus
13128-2

Emma Gelston Rohner pieced the top of this quilt between 1935 and 1940. Her granddaughter Betty Rohner added the border, and Leona Hake quilted it in 2001. Emma was born in 1870 in Elk City, Nebraska. According to her granddaughter, Emma learned to sew at a very young age. Her mother gave her fabric, needle, and thread when she was just three years old. Emma married Jake Rohner in 1892. They lived in Belgrade, Fullerton and finally Columbus, Nebraska.


Tulip Applique

Katherine Enevold Grunwald
Made in Omaha, Nebraska
1920-1940
101" x 83.75"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Berno Marie Anderson, Lincoln
13046-1

Kathrine Enevold Grunwald made these quilts in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Germany in 1870, she came to live with her sister in Omaha in 1889. Kathrine was a talented seamstress and lace maker. Shortly after her arrival in Omaha, she took a job at a shirt manufacturing company. She married Bernhard Grunwald in 1898. Kathrine and Bernhard raised a family and lived in Omaha for the rest of their lives, where Kathrine used her formidable skills to produce beautiful quilts, lace, and other needlework.


Lavender Flowers in Pot

Katherine Enevold Grunwald
Made in Omaha, Nebraska
1930-1939
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Berno Marie Anderson, Lincoln
13046-3

Perhaps influenced by the lighter colors used in fashion in the early twentieth century, textile manufacturers began producing fabric in new lighter colors with a heavy emphasis on pastels. This influence is seen in the color palette of Depression era quilts.





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Last updated 5 April 2011

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