Modern Age

In many ways, quilts of the “Modern Age” (roughly post-Civil War to pre-WWII) reflect the multitude of societal and technological changes sweeping America during the era. Constant, sometimes unsettling, changes included huge population shifts. Both immigration (largely from Europe) and internal migration (of Black citizens from the South to the North) were rising rapidly. Other changes also included new and evolving technologies, including those related to dyes, machinery, and fabrics. Chemical dye development, which began in the late 19th century, expanded during WWI and by the second quarter of the 20th century had largely displaced naturally-derived dyes. The sewing machine, first successfully introduced in the 1840s, became a more common household item after the Civil War and thus transformed quiltmaking, particularly in facilitating the piecing of small bits of fabric together. Factory-produced fabrics, a bedrock of early nineteenth-century industrial growth, expanded even further after the Civil War, and cotton calicoes were affordable for most classes. In addition, new fibers such as rayon began to be offered outside their original niche markets and uses. In the “Modern Age,” quiltmaking evolved rapidly alongside the transformations taking place in larger society and culture.