Century of Progress
Aurora See Dyer
When outlining posts on Art Deco I initially despaired of being
able to include any vintage Art Deco quilts.
But then I remembered I have notebooks full of them
--- all inspired by the 1933-4 Chicago Worlds Fair.
A tiny coin purse
A belt buckle
The two-season fair was the source of
uncountable inexpensive knick-knacks,
which used to cost a quarter at thrift shops
Inspiring Merikay Waldvogel and I
to write a book on the quilt
contest sponsored by Sears.
Edith Morrow Matthews
The huge cash prizes attracted thousands of entries,
many of them quite moderne.
Detail of quilt by Emma Mae Leonhard
showing a Century of Progress in fashion
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center
Sears issued a call for a special category of
quilts commemorating A Century of Progress,
the fair's theme. Quilts expressing the theme were
eligible for a bonus prize.
This was the heart of the Great Depression
and the cash prizes were huge.
Linda and Clarence Rebenstorff
Many of the quiltmakers looked to
the fair's advertising for inspiration.
Progress meant up-to-date modernism.
The posters are
classic Art Deco
as was the architecture.
The Ford Building
A General Motors LaSalle in the most modern of showrooms.
An enormous Studebaker.
Century of Progress
The architecture inspired several quiltmakers
to include the moderne Sears display building.
Quilting showing the first European settlement in Chicago
and the 1933 skyline
in a silk quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Unfortunately, all that Art Deco creativity in the quilts was misdirected.
Sears issued the call for modern quilts
but did not choose judges who appreciated modernity.
Judges at the National Contest
They chose as prize-winner a reproduction of a mid-19th-century quilt
in up-to-date colors of Nile green.
Merikay and I wondered what might have
happened if an Art Deco quilt had
won that influential contest.
Would quilt design have taken a different direction
in the 1930s?
Mayme Helman Barnfield
Merikay has written about the contest extensively for the Quilt Index Gallery pages.
Click on the links for lots more:
Here are the prizewinners:
On the gallery page scroll down to Sears contest to see various gallery photos with comments by Merikay.