By: Deborah E. Kraak
Textile manufactures have produced cotton fabrics printed in imitation of patchwork since at least the late-eighteenth century. Patchwork prints became particularly fashionable in the United States after the Centennial, flourishing between 1878 and 1900. The printed designs reflected the popularity and variety of actual patchwork patterns, including Log Cabin, geometric, and crazy designs. This study of late-nineteenth century American patchwork prints examines the historical development of the design, based on surviving textiles in public and private collections, as well as dated swatches produced by major New England print works. Further data on the manufactures’ marketing strategies have been reconstructed from an examination of the business records of Lawrence and Company, the Boston-based agent for the Cocheco Manufacturing Company, a major New England print works. These records illuminate the popularity of patchwork prints from the perspective of industry insiders. This paper focuses on the strategy of producing patchwork prints featuring figurative motifs inspired by novels, operettas, contemporary events, and children’s book illustrations.