Sunday, March 3, 2013

They believed it...

In my recent blog post, "New York Beauty - Why THAT name?", I wrote about the history of the New York Beauty pattern. The blog included points in history that significantly boosted the recognition of the name New York Beauty. After I wrote the blog, I received a copy of "Quilting" by Alice Beyer, published by the South Park Commissioners of Chicago, copyright 1934.

The book included an interesting nugget about the New York Beauty and its history. On Page 14, there is a picture of a Mountain Mist New York Beauty, a quilt design from 1930. Above the quilt it says "New York Beauty -- 1776" and below it in fine print it reads "Courtesy of Stearns Foster Co., Cincinnati, Ohio".  

Text from the vintage Mountain Mist New York Beauty pattern
Unfortunately, the date was a myth and was most likely invented by one of the Mountain Mist designers. Apparently, the publishers of "Quilting" had no reason to question it. They believed it. The information was published as if it was fact. 

Since the original information was printed in the Mountain Mist pattern, it must've been correct, right? Wrong! It's much like how the internet promotes misinformation today - just because it's published, doesn't mean it's true - and it goes back to an earlier comment I made about quilt history not being quite the well-oiled machine it is today. 

The pattern, the name, the story about it, and books like "Quilting" existed long before I was around, and books such as "Quilting" account for decades of usage of the term "New York Beauty" which nobody can undo. The best thing we can do is understand what really happened, and make note of the possible reasons. So noted: "Quilting" is one reason why 1776 was believed to be the date of the inspiration quilt for the Mountain Mist New York Beauty. You just can't make these things up!


  1. yes, you CAN make these things up -- that's what the Mtn Mist people did! And yes, people should NOT make these things up.
    But I can see how others who didn't know better figured it was a valid date. I think there was a generally romantic notion around the 1920s -30s that there was all sorts of colonial quilting c. 1776. of course that is not true, esp. not piecework. And then, there were also people probably knowingly using romantic notions to push patterns and books.

    1. Great answer Sandra, and also why it is important to understand history - all history - in the context of the time period in which it occurs. Sometimes people seem to want the simplest explanation, or, the explanation that will help them better 'connect' with historic events or times.

    2. Yes, I realize you can make these things up. The point is, I'm not the one who was doing that. :) This book is just one of the many things that led people to believe New York Beauty was always the name, and it was because of the 1776 date. Since people thought that's when the quilt originated, and that was the name, there probably seemed to be no need to ask what it was called prior to 1930.