This charming quilt is typical of those made with feed sacks in Depression Era America, though they were made through the 1940s. The invention of the sewing machine in 1846 slowly replaced heavy barrels with cloth sacks for the shipping and storage of grain, fertilizer and seed. Mills in the northeast made canvas sacks stamped with previous barrel measurements and mill names. As newly invented synthetic fibers like rayon became popular for dresses and undergarments, cotton prices dropped. By the mid 20s, mills began printing colorful and inexpensive cotton replacing barrel-marked sacks, and these prints found second life as affordable fabric for clothing. Chicken farmers sold the sacks as a side business, as preserving supplies remained important until after WWII. One large sack made a child’s shirt; three made a dress. Scraps often went into handsome quilts like this one, though printed fabrics were also printed on yardage.
Possibly from the Midwest, South or New England, this quilt has multiple patterns and colors, and is made with a combination of hand and machine stitch. The back is plain canvas. There are some rust stains and signs of ware; please see photos.
American Depression-Era Farm Quilt
Cotton with natural batting, 84×72”, partially worn
Made in USA