My recent visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Jazz Age exhibit revealed a surprise near the end – a quilt. The exhibit features scads of diamond and platinum jewelry, stylish but uncomfortable looking furniture, impractical coffee and tea sets, flapper dresses, intriguing textiles, and all sorts of room interior designs. However, its sleek styles didn’t find their way into period quilts.
Yet as a portent of the 1930s, Mrs. Shaw’s Prosperity quilt can’t be beat.
Herbert Hoover’s quote “prosperity is just around the corner,” inspired this wonderful humorous quilt created by Fannie B. Shaw between 1930-1932. It is 72″ x 86″ and is hand appliqued, pieced, and quilted. It’s in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.
The applique figures depict women, businessmen, baseball players, a farmer, a cowboy, and more peeking around the corner expectantly. Mrs. Shaw even included herself in her hallmark apron. She used a variation of the attic windows pattern and quilted footprints in the sashing to show movement and the search for jobs.Apparently the farmer behind the plow represents her husband, a Texas farmer.
In the lower right corner, Uncle Sam finally arrives with farm relief, money, and legal beer. Priorities priorities. Mrs. Shaw included the Democrat donkey and the Republican elephant in her blocks, maybe “a plague on both your houses” sentiment or a suggestion that both parties need to work together.
Some contemporary “message” quilts strike me as unduly heavy and shrill. In contrast, the Prosperity Quilt is fun to look at, inventive in its use of the attic windows block, and yet it conveys effectively the widespread distress of the 1930s. You can catch more flies with honey …