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Beauty in Hard Times
Depression Era Quilts in Nebraska

Shows and Contests

Quilt shows and contests were a popular way for quilters to share their work during the Depression Era. Although quilts have been exhibited at local, regional, and state fairs since the late nineteenth century, the number of quilts shown at the Nebraska State Fair in the 1930s rose over prior decades. Fairs weren't the only ways to exhibit or compete with quilts. In 1931 the Omaha World-Herald began an annual quilt show/contest that was held for a week at a time at six Omaha department stores.


Nebraska Farmer
magazine,
October 1938

Nebraska Farmer
magazine,
June 1932

Nebraska Farmer
magazine,
September 1938


Nebraska Farmer
magazine, September 1932

Nebraska Farmer
magazine,
August 1932


Cartoon Quilt

Bernice Lunder
Made in Nebraska
1935
77" x 67"
Stuhr Museum
1981.0077.002

Bernice Lunder appliquéd and embroidered this forty-nine block comic character quilt. Bernice drew the figures freehand, quilted it by machine, and stitched the names of the characters on each square. The quilt was featured in an Omaha World-Herald quilt contest in the 1930s. A clipping from the paper stated, "One of the unique quilts that has been entered, is one featuring forty comic characters. It was made by Mrs. Bernice Lunder . . . Mrs. Lunder drew all the characters free hand and then appliquéd them. Each comic folk is true to character. She spent a year on the pieces and then quilted it during the past three weeks. It was one of her hobbies as she traveled through western Nebraska with her husband."



State Flowers

Mrs. Nellie M. Jones
Made in Lincoln, Nebraska
1935-1940
88" x 72"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Miss Roberta Jones, Lincoln
9337-18

The maker of this quilt, Mrs. Nellie M. Jones, was an invalid who spent three years designing and embroidering the state flower blocks in this quilt. The quilting was done by the Ladies Aid group of Bryan Methodist Church in Lincoln. It was entered in county and state fairs. Nellie also put together a book that contains detailed information about the flowers featured in the quilt.



Home Arts Needlecraft, (pdf)
September 1936

 


Century of Progress

Lillian Smith Fordyce
Made in Pennsylvania
Circa 1933
94" x 86"
International Quilt Study Center
1997.007.0915

The 1933 Chicago World's Fair was the setting for the first Sears National Quilt Contest. This contest attracted 25,000 entries. Quilts were judged at local stores, then at regional levels and finally at the World's Fair. Makers were encouraged to create commemorative quilts reflecting the fair's theme, "Century of Progress." However, protests were filed after these types of quilts did not get awards. Sears tried to make up for this inconsistency by holding an exhibit for the top commemorative quilts the next year, although many entrants were still displeased. Sears capitalized on the contest long after it was over by selling patterns of the winning quilts.


Century of Progress

Katie Goar Maze
Made in Lincoln, Nebraska
Circa 1933
57" x 44"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mrs. M. T. Maze, Lincoln
6168-1

This quilt was made from wool produced on donor's parents' farm in central Indiana in 1849. The donor, Katie Goar Maze, began making the quilt at the age of 72 for the Sears National Quilt Contest held at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. It was also shown at the Nebraska State Fair in 1938. It depicts the life of her parents around the border with an embroidered cabin, spinning wheel, loom and other images.

The Sears National Quilt Contest attracted 25,000 entries and quilts were judged at local stores, then at regional levels and finally at the World's Fair. Makers were encouraged to create commemorative quilts reflecting the fair's theme, "Century of Progress." However, these types of quilts did not get awards and protests were filed. Sears tried to make up for this inconsistency by holding an exhibit for the top commemorative quilts the next year although many entrants were still displeased. Sears capitalized on the contest long after it was over by selling patterns of the winning quilts.


Ribbon Quilt

Ethel Cushing
Made in Edgar, Nebraska
Circa 1930
85" x 71"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Donald & Doris Cushing, Lincoln
10898-1

Ethel Cushing made this quilt featuring ribbons she and her husband Loren won at the Adams, Nuckolls, Clay, and Garfield county fairs and the Nebraska State Fair from 1924 to 1931. Prizes were for needlework, canning, poultry, and livestock.



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http://www.nebraskahistory.org/exhibits/depression_quilts/shows_contests.htm
Last updated 5 April 2011

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