By: Vista Anne Mahan
One hundred and ten years ago quilters were wild about the new fad of crazy quilts, and photographers were excited about new products in cameras and film. Because of the growth in the photography industry in the 1880s, we are now able to take a look at family pictures of the period, not only of the rich and famous, but of the rural and ordinary. Some of these ordinary families had their pictures made at home on the front porch or in the front yard, using a quilt
as a backdrop.
A larger number of old photographs could tell us about regional variation in the number of quilt photos produced and can give us a more definitive beginning and ending date for the practice of using quilts as backdrops. Surveying larger numbers of old quilt photos will add a new dimension to quilt history, thereby telling us more about quilts and their uses in old photographs. By working together, quilt researchers, photo collectors, and textile historians can collaborate to provide details on this significant but rarely mentioned practice within portrait photography, which will ultimately better our understanding of American life at the turn of the