Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA History




Sara M. Fieldston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vanessa May, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Rzeznik, Ph.D.


Quilting, Industrialization, Home Crafts, Folk Art


Quilting in the United States transitioned from a useful home craft to an art form from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s in response to industrialization. Before industrialization, quilting was seen as a primarily women’s craft and because of that was not given respect as an art form. During industrialization the American people had a nostalgia for times past because of fast paced growth, and therefore quilting and other home crafts started to become more prevalent. This nostalgia led to the start of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States that brought home crafts such as crochet, needlework, and quilting to the forefront. A major paradox of industrialization was that businesses started to see a possibility for profit and started promoting and manufacturing new quilting technologies and supplies to market to American women. So quilting became more popular because of a nostalgia for simpler times without the quick advancements of new technologies but without the big businesses creating the new technologies to make quilting cheaper and easier, then quilting would not have been as prominent. Singer Sewing Machine did this in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 where no quilts were displayed but new sewing machines and fabrics were both major exhibits at the fair. In the forty years that followed the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 popularity in quilting started to grow. This was due to the advent of mail order catalogs and fabrics being available for very cheap due to industrialization providing the factories to create it and the ability to ship all around the United States. Quilting was finally recognized as an art during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 because of the Sears Centennial Quilt Competition. It was the largest quilt competition ever held with over 25,000 women submitting quilts. The large prizes offered and the mass coverage that the contest had in the press made the American people appreciate and see quilting as an art. Because of the major influence of the Sears Centennial Quilt Competition, folk arts became accepted. That led to the creation of Folk Art Museums around the world and now quilts and other home crafts are on display in art museums and accepted as part of the folk art world.