American Quilts of the 1900s
Dr. Lori shows you tips to identify valuable quilts from the 20th Century.
by Dr. Lori Verderame
Quilts after World War I
After World War I, America received Germany’s aniline dye formulas as part of their war tribute. There was an explosion of reasonably priced, colorfast cottons. In the early 1900s, lifestyles improved and women had more time to spend on needle arts and the beautiful yet time-consuming red work quilts gained interest.
Quilts of the 1930s had greater depth of color with greens, yellows, and pastels all coming into favor. Unreliable purple and black dyes were now easy to wash with no bleeding or fading. Charming, cheerful, and lighter prints as well as delicate solids appeared in the 1940s and the majority of designs related to the context of the times.
By World War II, Americans once again were forced to become resourceful. Quilts were made out of old clothes, worn blouses, and trousers. Grain producers began to package feed in printed sacks that were often integrated into quilts. Called feedbag or chicken linen, these bags of flour, grain, salt, sugar or seed were reused as quilts. During the post war baby boom, Americans saw a flood of miniature crib quilts, double Wedding Ring, and Grandma’s Flower Gardens quilt designs. The traditional floral appliqués, Dreden plates, Sunbonnet Sue, and redwork quilting designs also made a design statement in the late 1940s and 1950s. These quilts regularly command several hundreds to several thousands of dollars are collectors shows and auctions.
After 1955, the interest in handmade items waned. Women were joining the work force in unprecedented numbers and had no time to make bedding. The interest in quilt collecting revived after the 1976 Bicentennial celebration and today contemporary quilters are revered artisans. Today, museums like Paducah, KY’s famed quilt museum and New York City’s American Folk Art Museum retain important American textile collections and regularly exhibit quilts, both antique and contemporary.
Read my tips about Early American quilts including Colonial, Federal and Victorian eras.
Request an online appraisal of your quilts from Dr. Lori.