This was first posted over at Suture for a Living on February 15, 2008.
When I first found this quilt top, I was told it was made of “cigar felts”. It is made of 128 “flags”, 8 across and 16 down. I have several other “flags” that aren’t sewn together. I am thinking about disassembling the quilt top, removing some of the duplicates, and adding in some that aren’t there. Maybe doing two so they are wall size. Then I could display them better once they are quilted.
I have learned that they are not felts. They were not associated with cigars. They are cotton flannels. They were associated with cigarettes as premiums. That doesn’t make me any less enamored of them. There is so much history there. The history of advertising, quilting, society, and more.
Check out some of these of these flags — the countries — Austria-Germany, Siam (with the elephant), Ireland (with the harp), the United States (only 48 stars). Korea is spelled with a “C” (not pictured).
And China (with the lion), Denmark (red with the white cross), Poland (eagle on red field with blue X), Liberia (similar to the US flag (one white star in blue field with red/white strips).
Here are some others I have not sewn together. The Germany one is interesting–remember this flag was pre-World Wars. The purple and red is Morocco.
The practice of inserting advertising in tobacco products and packaging began about 1870 and continued throughout the late 19th Century into the first decades of the 20th Century. The inserts or premiums that I find interesting are the ones that became parts of quilts. Tobacciana includes tin tobacco tags, cigarette cards, cigar ribbons, silks, and flannels. The ribbons, silks, and flannels were often collected and sewn into quilts.
Silk Cigar Ribbons
These ribbons were used to tie the bundles of cigars. Often the ribbon had the tobacco company’s name imprinted on it. The ribbons came in bright colors; most commonly gold or yellow, but also blue, green, orange, purple and red. Cigar ribbons are narrow in width, usually about 3/4 inches wide. They are usually 12-15 inches long. (an example can be seen here)
Pillows, tablecloths, and quilts were made to show off the ribbon collections. Log cabins and fans were two popular patterns.
Tobacco or cigarette “silks” were often made of silk or silk satin, a silk-cotton cloth blend, a cotton sateen or even a plain woven cotton. These “silks” were beautiful and printed with pictures of various themes: floral, flags, American Indian motifs, bathing beauties, animals, and more. Several came in series. One such group was the city seals which contained over 75 individual items. (examples can be seen here)
Here is a website related to a A Floral Silkies Quilt with pictures and the family history of the quilt.
Tobacco “flannels” were actually made of a cotton flannel fabric. These too were printed with designs such as the “silks.” (examples can be seen here)
I wish some company would do something like the above today. It would be great! Godiva does with ribbons, but how much chocolate would I have to eat to get enough ribbon to make a quilt? I have a couple of these ribbons. Anyone want to send me their ribbons? Any company (for healthy products) want to start doing something like the above premiums?
Textile Tobacco Inserts and Premiums used in American Quilts, and Related Household Articles; By Laurette Carroll, Quilt Maker,
Quilt Collector and Quilt Historian
“Better Choose Me: Addictions to Tobacco, Collecting, and Quilting, 1880-1920”; Ethel Ewart Abrahams and Racheal K. Pannabecker from Uncoverings 2000
America’s Quilting History; Tobacco Premium Quilt History: Silks, Ribbons & Flannels — womenfolk.com
A Flag Quilt Launches a Search into the Past; Merikay Waldvogel; Quilting Today, Issue 68, pp 26-28
Museums & Quilts; Attic Treasures for Everybody at the Bowers
Museum of Cultural Art; Carter Houck; Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, Jan/Feb 1995, No 269, pp 40-41