Star of the Bluegrass


Quilt Index Record: 5B-9D-4F

Essay Historical Background

description
Margaret Caden of Lexington, Kentucky won the $1000 grand prize with a green traditional star quilt. The judges had so many other colorful, well-made quilts in traditional and original designs, it makes one wonder what they had in mind.
essay
The 1933 Sears National Quilt Contest was announced in January 1933 with a deadline of May 15, 1933. Over 24,000 quilts were entered at local Sears stores or sent to one of 10 regional mail order houses. Quilts were judged at each site with the top three winners moving onto the next round. Finally just 30 quilts reached the final judging held at the Sears Pavilion on the 1933 Chicago World's Fair site. Margaret Caden owned a fine linens shop in Lexington, Kentucky with her sister Miss A. M. Caden. They contracted with Eastern Kentucky quilters to make quilts that they sold through their Lexington, KY store as well as through hotel shops in Saratoga Springs, NY and Palm Beach, Florida. She may have designed the quilt and instructed the women who worked on the quilt, but one would never say the quilt was "entirely of her own making." And that is the statement she signed which was printed on the entry tag. Every entrant signed the same tag. Granted there are several examples of more than one person working on a contest entry in these records, but in this case, it is likely that Miss Caden did not put a stitch in the quilt. The women who worked on the quilt saved pieces as proof of their participation. If Margaret Caden had entered her quilt at her local quilt store, the judges there would have known her shop and probably would know that she had not made the entire quilt. Instead Caden bypassed the local round and sent her quilt to the Chicago mail order house. There she won first prize in the Mail Order division and went on to win the grand prize in the national round. As per the contest informational brochure, the grand prize quilt was to be given to the new first lady Eleanor Roosevelt at the close of the World's Fair. There is a photo of Mrs. Roosevelt receiving the quilt. And in 1934, the top 10 regional winning quilts were invited to return to Chicago for the second summer's run of the Century of Progress Exposition. At the far left of the photo, the Caden quilt appears to be hanging on the wall. The quilt has been been out of sight and missing ever since. Miss Caden had a duplicate of the quilt made possibly by the same women who worked on the original quilt. The duplicate has descended in the Caden family through Margaret's brother and his wife. In 1948, Stearns & Foster Co. offered the quilt as Mountain Mist pattern #100 "Star of the Bluegrass." It is not certain if Margaret Caden or her sister gave Stearns & Foster the rights to the pattern, but its description on the batting wrapper mentions the $1000 prize. Stearns & Foster photographed a quilt in this pattern on a bed. This researcher has wondered if that quilt is the original grand prize winning quilt. Stearns & Foster staff looked for the quilt to no avail and searched the financial records. Where is the quilt? It has been the subject of research among quilt historians for many years. In recent years, there has even been a novel written about the quilt and who might have received it from Eleanor. No evidence of the quilt has been found in Roosevelt correspondence files or in the museum collections of the houses where Eleanor and Franklin resided. Why did the quilt win? The extensive stuffed work designs of fern-like sprigs probably caught the eye of the judges. Following this contest, stuffed work (also known as "trapunto") was featured in women's needlework magazines. Bertha Stenge added trapunto quilting designs to her quilts. She went on to win many national prizes.

Administrative Fields

InstNameF003
Waldvogel Archival Collection
InstProjNameF003a
Sears Quilt Contest 1933 Chicago World's Fair
InstInvContrNumF004
235

Overall Quilt Description

TypeObjF008
Finished quilt
QuiltTitleF009
Star of the Bluegrass
AltNameF011
Unknown Star
PredomColorsF014
Green
QuiltSpecColorF014a
Nile Green
OverallColorF14b
Light or pastel colors
DateQuiltF023
1930-1949
DateFinishF023b
1933
LayFormatF024
Block pattern

Quilt top materials and construction

FiberTypesF035
Cotton
FabPrintF037
Print
Solid/plain
ConstrucF038
Hand Piecing
ConstrucF038d
Other novelty technique
UniqueF038h
Stuffed (trapunto) fern sprig designs are incorporated throughtout the quilt on borders in open areas, etc.

Quilting Description

QuiltTechF049
Hand quilting
DesignF052a
Grid diamond
DesignF052b
Other
DesignF052d
Fern sprigs with three or five leaves are used in the trapunto designs.

Quiltmaker identification

QuiltTopF054
Rohrer, Ida
QuiltedByF055
Price, Allie Taylor
Price, Ruth
OthPeopleF056
Black, Mattie

Quilt provenance

ProvCountyF057b
Owsley
ProvStateF057d
Kentucky (KY)
ProvCountryF057f
United States
QuiltHistF059
The quilt has not been seen since 1934.

Quilt purposes uses

ReasonsF060
Challenge or Contest entry

Quilt design and materials sources

SourceMatF063
Purchased new
AddNotesF066
The eight-pointed star quilt block is also known as "Harvest Star."

Exhibitions and Contests

ExhibitListF067a
Pieces of the Caden quilt toured with the exhibition of 30 quilts entitled “Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World’s Fair” was curated by Merikay Waldvogel and Barbara Brackman. The Knoxville Museum of Art and Smith-Kramer, Inc. coordinated the travelling exhibition to the following sites: Jan 7-Feb 7, 1994 Palm Beach, FL (The Society of the Four Arts); Mar 20-July 17, 1994 Lexington, MA (Museum of Our National Heritage); Aug 7–Sep 25, 1994 Midland, MI (Midland Center for the Arts); Oct 16–Dec 4, 1994 Logan, KS (Dane G. Hansen Memorial Museum; Dec 18, 1994–Apr 23, 1995 Chicago, IL (Chicago Cultural Center); May 10-Jul 2, 1995 Grosse Pointe Shores, MI (Edsel and Eleanor Ford House); Jul 23-Sep 10, 1995 Los Angeles, CA (Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum); Oct 1-Nov 19, 1995 Janesville, WI (Rock County Historical Society); Dec 10, 1995-Jan 28, 1996 Neenah, WI (Bergstrom-Mahler Museum); Feb 18-Apr 8, 1996 Lexington, KY (University of Kentucky Art Museum); May 3-July 24, 1996 Knoxville, TN (Knoxville Museum of Art).
ContestListF071a
Sears Quilt Contest, 1933 Chicago World's Fair

Quilt ownership and contact info

OwnerCountryF086b
United States

Other source materials available for this quilt

RelItemsF088a
Publicity photo of judges admiring the quilt (Sears Archives). Photo of the quilt with an inset photo of Miss Caden appeared in the 1934 Sears Catalog along with the names of the winners and their home towns.

Quiltmaker personal information

EnviroF104c
Rural
CountryF108
United States
OtherSourceMat
Merikay Waldvogel and Barbara Brackman. Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World's Fair (Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1993), 32-33, 46-54, 49-55, 108.

Other quilts made by quiltmaker

SellQuiltF127
yes
PriceF128
Margaret Caden and her sister besides offering finished quilts as part of the needlework selection, they took orders to quilt customers' tops, a task subcontracted to rural quilters. Their gift shop also sold quilt patterns. Within a month of receiving her award, Margaret Caden was selling patterns and fabric for her contest quilt, which she now called the "Star of the Bluegrass." She offered mail-order customers a choice of "Scotch gingham like the prize quilt" for $15.00" or "Ever-fast gingham for $8.50."

Image Information

ImageConF075a
Whole quilt
ImageTypeF076
Color
SourceF077
Slide
AccessF080
Restricted
HolderF080a
Merikay Waldvogel
ReposFile
star_of_Bluegrass_Quilt.jpg
5B-9D-4F-461-star_of_Bluegrass_Quilt.jpg
41208
image/jpeg
verify
yes

File Information

function
Image - large display (550 or more pixels)
file_medium
image
file_format
jpeg
Contributing Institutions
MATRIX: Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University, Michigan State University Museum, Alliance For American Quilts
Publisher
Quilt Index
Resource Type
StillImage

Detail Images

No additional images uploaded

Additional Records

No additional records