Thursday, January 23, 2014

American Primitive = Pennsylvania Dutch

An interest in folkloric American design, particularly that of the Pennsylvania Germans, became a mid-century fad in the U.S.

Donald Deskey design

The imagery combines a European folkloric look
with southeastern Pennsylvania traditional arts.

Basic abstraction may have appealed to some

Metal Rooster Weathervane

but the imagery was soon taken over by a rural nostalgia, a kind of Colonial Revival mentality.

Fashion for folkloric images found its way to feedsack prints in the '40s and '50s.

Chickens on chicken feed sacks.

The interest in folkloric designs included the whole farm menagerie

The whole farm
and here the farmers themselves in a vintage dress

and curtains.

Schumacher's put out a Museum Collection of prints
picturing the trendy folk arts of the time
ships and plates (and a Confederate soldier at top right.)

Ships in bottles, duck decoys and iron trivets


 If one couldn't afford authentic Pennsylvania German toleware or tinware one could buy curtain material picturing the must-have items.

Or make your own copies

1948 Jane Zook

The fad for what was called Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch) was basic household design
from 1940 on.

Pennsylvania-Dutch quiilt dated 1953,
probably from a kit.

with folkloric fabric print on the back.

Pennsylvania Dutch quilted silk dress
by movie costumer Gilbert Adrian.

The modernism is hard to see through all the sentiment and nostalgia but it was there.


  1. Interesting that the fourth feedsack (blue) with the "farm" menagerie includes an elephant!

  2. I'm so glad to read this as I recently made a purse from thrift shop fabric that looks like the orange and brown feedsack with chickens and flowers and a couple who look like dressed up farmers.

  3. Now I understand my mother's kitchen wallpaper c. 1954!

  4. Yikes--the curtain fabric is so similar to the kitchen wallpaper that I grew up with it's scary. Combined with the boomerang countertops, it's not a look I want to revisit! I guess my Mom used what she liked whether it was meant to go together or not--the blonde furniture was the icing on the cake....

  5. That brings back memories, lol. My mom went through a pennsylvania dutch fad and had to make a new couch cover and curtains with it.


  6. I also grew up with that wallpaper. The thing was that the folkloric look was modern and so was the boomerang countertop. They went together.

  7. Lovely Folk Art that is still to be seen on old painted furniture in Germany!

  8. you know what book the elongated heart quilt came from? Thank you so much!