Sneak Peek

The Exhibits and Collections staff here at ITC is keeping busy this week installing the fifth annual Distinguished Artist Veterans art show. This exhibit is coordinated by VSA Texas, the state organization on arts and disability, and includes a wide array of artworks made by disabled American veterans from Texas. The show officially opens on November 6th, but you can get a sneak peek of what’s in store below.

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Object: Trick or Treat Bag

United States
Materials: Wax Paper, Ink

Halloween is this Friday, which means it will be a night of costumes and, of course, Trick or Treating. Trick or Treating is an integral part of Halloween celebrations for most children in the United States. For most Texans today, Trick or Treating is a normal tradition for anyone born during the 1940’s and after. Even though it has been going on for some time, the practice as we know it is less than 100 years old. Today’s version of Trick or Treating developed during the early part of the 20th century as a way to keep youths from playing tricks and vandalizing different parts of the city. Children and older youths were encouraged to dress up in costumes and go to the different houses in the neighborhood to receive candy or other goodies.

Trick or Treating may have some origins in a tradition associated with the Catholic holiday of All Souls Day. In England there were special cakes made for the souls which were called “soul cakes” and people would go “a’ soulin” for these cakes. It was usually the poor who went to wealthier homes to collect these “soul cakes,” which they would be given as long as they agreed to pray for family’s dead relatives.


Pumpkins carved with different designs. Image from Simply Art Studios.

Besides Trick or Treating, there are other traditions that take place around Halloween. Carved pumpkins, or jack-o’-lanterns, are a popular holiday decoration. Many families in Texas will go to a pumpkin patch and select a pumpkin or two for carving. The pumpkin is carved to resemble a ghoulish face or other holiday inspired image. In recent years people have also started carving designs based off their favorite cartoon or movie characters. To carve a pumpkin, the top is cut off and then the insides are scooped out. Once everything is cleaned out then the design is drawn on the the outside of the pumpkin. Knives or special carving tools are used to cut out the sketched design. Once the design is complete a candle or other light source is placed inside and the top is placed back on. The light shines through the cutout of the carving and there you have a jack-o-lantern.


A traditional Irish jack-o-lantern that has been carved from a turnip. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

This tradition has its origins in Ireland, but instead of pumpkins, which were not grown there, turnips were used. The tradition is based on the old tale of Stingy Jack who was able to trick and trap the Devil twice. Jack would only release the Devil if he promised not to collect Jack’s soul when he died. The Devil agreed and was set free, but when Jack died he was not allowed into Heaven and he was barred from Hell because the Devil had promised not to collect his soul. The Devil cast Jack into the darkness with an ember from hell that would never go out. So Jack carved a turnip and placed the ember inside and became known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack O’Lantern. People started carving turnips and creating jack-o’-lanterns so they could see on All Hallows Eve night. When the tradition came to America it was found that pumpkins were easier to carve and so the switch was made from turnip to pumpkin.

This Friday while everyone celebrates in their own way, please remember to be safe and watch for the children while they are out and about Trick or Treating! From the Collections staff here at the ITC, have a fun and safe holiday! (Jennifer McPhail)

Additional Resources:
Barth, Edna, and Ursula Arndt. 1972. Witches, pumpkins, and grinning ghosts; the story of Halloween symbols. New York: Seabury Press.

Morton, Lisa. 2012. Trick or treat : a history of Halloween. London: Reaktion Books.

Rogers, Nicholas. 2002. Halloween: from pagan ritual to party night. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Santino, Jack. 1994. All around the year: holidays and celebrations in American life. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Santino, Jack. 1994. Halloween and other festivals of death and life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.


Object: Doll

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European or Latin American
20th century
Materials: Cloth, metal & plastic

This doll shows a bullfighter, leaning out of the way of a charging bull. Originally introduced to the Americas by the Spanish, bullfighting has long been a popular sport throughout Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico and Latin America. There are many different styles of bullfighting performed in different areas of the world, not all of which include injuring the bull. However, in most traditional bullfights seen in Spain and Mexico the death of the bull is the climax of the event. In these traditional events professional bullfighters, called matadores or toreros, perform a variety of death-defying moves to encourage the bull to charge at them. Depending on where the fight is taking place, and the stage of the fight, there could be a number of fighters in the ring with the bull. The fighters use a number of items in the fight. The doll above demonstrates how two of these items were used. In this example, the fighter is using a piece of red cloth, called a muleta or capote, to encourage the bull to charge. As the bull charges past the fighter, he attempts to a jab colorful lance, or pica, into the bull’s neck.. The metal tips of the lances are sharpened to form small hooks that catch in the bull’s flesh and remain sticking out of his neck throughout the fight. The repeated charges, small injuries from the picas, and the resulting blood loss, slowly exhaust the bull. At the end of the fight, the fighter’s goal is to kill the bull with a single, perfectly placed, sword between his shoulder blades and into his heart.


Image from

Bullfights are often the main attraction at larger events including a number of other shows and activities. Thousands of bullfighting events occur annually around the world. Despite their popularity, bullfighting is now seen by many to be cruel and inhumane. Bullfighting is now banned from National Spanish Television, a number of areas in Europe, and there are a number of movements working to expand these bans worldwide. The following link will connect you to a National Geographic video with more information on the bullfighting tradition in Mexico. Viewer discretion is advised however as this video includes footage of actual bullfights.

While bullfighting is illegal in the United States, there are other sporting events that use bulls such as the charreada, which is an event similar to today’s modern rodeo. The charreada developed when area ranch hands would compete to see who was better at various animal husbandry skills. The charreada incorporates equestrian (horse) competitions and demonstrations, special costumes for the horse and riders, music, and food. Several competitions take place during the charreada, including a bull riding event called, Jineteo de Toro. The bulls used for the Jineteo de Toro are smaller than those used by Professional Bull Riders, IncJineteo de Toro bulls typically weigh from 900lbs to 1300lbs, where bulls used in American rodeo-style bull riding can weigh up to 2200lbs. Another difference between these two types of bull riding is the length of time the rider has to stay on the bull. In PBR events, the rider is trying to stay on for 8 seconds, in Jineteo de Toro the rider tries to stay on until the bull stops bucking.  The charreada is still popular in Mexico and parts of the United States.


Bull riding at the Calgary Stampede. Image form Wikimedia Commons.

Both the charreada and bullfighting have taken place here in Texas. Bullfighting was legal in Texas up until 1891, when there was a push to move away from blood sports. Jineteo de Toro was, and is still, an active event here in Texas, but with the introduction of Wild West Shows, American cowboys started riding larger steers instead of the smaller bulls. Steers were used because they were easier to move from place to place. Steer riding was not a popular event until the 1920’s when bull riding came back into fashion. In 1936 Cowboy’s Turtle Association was founded, and began setting rules and regulations regarding bull riding. With the Association and the regulations, bull riding became much more popular on the rodeo circuit. In 1945 they changed their name to the Rodeo Cowboy’s Association, and became the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) in 1975. In 1992 several professional bull riders broke away from the PRCA and founded Professional Bull Riders, Inc. which is the only professional organization for American-style bull riding. Bull riding has been a part of rodeo since its beginning and is considered the most popular event in rodeo. [Kathryn S. McCloud and Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:

Bonet, Eduardo. Bulls & Bullfighting; History, Techniques, Spectacle. New York: Crown Publishers, 1970.

Fredriksson, Kristine. American Rodeo From Buffalo Bill to Big Business. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1985.

Hardouin-Fugier, Elisabeth. Bullfighting: A Troubled History. London: Reaktion Books, 2010.

McLeese, Tex. Bull Riding and Bullfighting. Vero Beach, Fla: Rourke Press, 2001.

Woerner, Gail Hughbanks. Cowboy Up!: The History of Bull Riding. Austin, Tex: Eakin Press, 2001.

Photo Quiz

The answer to last month’s quiz is….

I-0085a (3)

A hat! Can you guess what this product is made of? – Hint, it was once widely used as a health tonic to treat conditions like rheumatism, and rickets.

I-0369f (2)

We’ll post the answer on November 19th. Good luck!

Object: Bullet Mold

I-0192b (2)
Bullet Mold
United States
Materials: Metal

This object is a single cavity bullet mold for a .58 minié ball muzzle-loading rifle. According to the donor this mold was used during the American Civil War by a man named John Jacob Thomas. According to family tradition, Thomas immigrated from Switzerland and served with the Refugio Home Guard, and also served as a Refugio County constable in 1864.

In the spring of 1861 the first shots of the American Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter. Although, Texas had worked hard to join the Union in 1845 they were concerned by the election of Abraham Lincoln and believed he was a threat to slavery. Texans tried to get Sam Houston to call a convention but Houston was devoted to both the Union and Texas and refused to take any steps that would aid secession. A convention was eventually held and Texas seceded from the Union in March 1861. The war would last until 1865 and result in more 600,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest war ever fought by the United States.


Various types of Minié balls. The four on the right are provided with Tamisier ball grooves for aerodynamic stability. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Bullets like the ones made from this mold were called minié balls and were one of the reasons why the causality number was so high. The minié ball was one of many technological innovations during this time period. The minié ball was invented by a Frenchman named Claude-Etienne Minié. However, the French never adopted the bullet design. It was James Burton a man from Harper’s Ferry, Virginia who perfected the bullet in the United States. “Burton simplified the design…and developed a hollow-based, .58-caliber lead projectile that could be cheaply mass produced.” One person could manufacture about 3,000 bullets an hour. Different from a regular musket ball the minié ball was cylindrical in shape with a hollow base that expanded when fired. “By the mid-1850s, the fully evolved minié bullet made it possible to build an infantry weapon as easy to load as the old smoothbore musket but with the accuracy and range of a rifle. The term rifle-musket was used to show the weapon’s lethal combination. A soldier using one could fire up to six shots a minute, and with more time to aim could hit a four square-foot target at 500 yards. The minié ball was used by both the North and South.


Amputation kit, ca. 1870. Image from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Although, the minié ball was a new ground-breaking invention, musket fire was responsible for a large amount of the casualties. Because of the relative softness of the bullets, they would flatten and deform on impact, creating a larger wound and more severe injuries. With a regular musket ball the entrance wound was usually the same size as the exit wound. However, with the minié ball the exit wound was much larger. Minié ball bullets were also more likely to break and splinter bone than a traditional musket ball, and in turn cause more damage to muscle and tissue. Almost all direct hits from a minié ball were deadly, though some soldiers did survive.

The soldiers who survived being hit by one of these bullets would be taken to army surgeons, typically encamped near the battlefield. Cleaning contaminated wounds was time consuming and sometimes did not work. In a battle environment and a mounting number of injured men, amputation was sometimes the only option. An amputation was more successful if done before the wound became infected. With the poor sanitation available at the front, infection was a common problem during the war and caused twice as many deaths as the battle wounds themselves. One reason rate of infection was so high was because it was not yet common practice to sterilize medical equipment prior to surgery, and the concept of germ theory had not been completely accepted. Even though Civil War surgeons saved more lives than not, they had a bad reputation amongst the soldiers and were often called butchers. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

The following video shows how soldiers made paper cartridges for the .58 minié ball muzzle-loading rifle.

Additional Sources:

Davis, William C., and Russ A. Pritchard. The Fighting Men of the Civil War. New York: Gallery Books, 1989.

Dew, Charles B. 2001. Apostles of disunion: southern secession commissioners and the causes of the Civil War. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Howey, A. W. (1999, 10). The widow-maker. Civil War Times Iillustrated, 38, 46-51+.

Rutkow, Ira M. 2005. Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War surgery and the evolution of American medicine. New York: Random House.

Wooster, Ralph A. 1999. Civil War Texas: a history and a guide. [Austin]: Texas State Historical Association. 

Object: Pin

2014_8_1 front

El Paso, TX
Materials: metal and paint

western_trailsWhen thinking about fashion, certain cities come to mind; like Paris, Milan, & New York. One place you may not think about today, El Paso, was once a major manufacturing center for the clothing in the United States. In the late 1800s large numbers of American settlers headed west for land and fortune. The California Gold Rush of 1849 lured people west with promises of vast riches for the taking, and then the Homestead Act of 1862 promised free land west of the Mississippi River. With incentives like these it’s no wonder people were so eager to move west! While the early wagon trails and First Transcontinental Railroad would pass north of Texas, by the 1880s railroads were established across the state creating new shipping and manufacturing hubs to supply the westward expansion. El Paso was one of the cities that benefited from this trend, becoming a center for textile manufacturing, refineries, and food processing.

farah-life-08-10-1959-105-M3Founded in 1920 by Mansour Farah, a Lebanese immigrant, the Farah Manufacturing Company started out making blue chambray work shirts out of a small shop, with only 10 seamstresses. The business expanded and additional products were offered, eventually becoming the second largest El Paso employer in 1971. Farah was best known for its menswear, and made a name for itself by mass producing the widely popular polyester leisure suits of the 1970s. However, in order to maintain this growth and stay competitive in the clothing market, Farah began pressuring its employees to meet ever higher production quotas without increasing wages and benefits. Additionally, workers felt that its hiring and promotion policies were unfair. These conditions prompted many Farah employees to seek out the protection of labor unions, to help them negotiate with the company for better conditions. William Farah, the CEO at the time, was strongly against unionization, and said he would never allow a union at Farah. In 1972 when workers were fired for joining the unions, the employees walked out on strike. Within a month the AFL-CIO was endorsing a national boycott of all Farah products, rapidly cutting into the company’s profits. This pin, in the collection of the Institute of Texan Cultures was made to show support of the strike and boycott. The strike also divided the community, as it soon became a contest between the mostly white Protestant business owners and the Mexican Catholic laborers of the area, leading to increased labor activism among Mexican Americans in South Texas. The strike gained national attention, with politicians like George McGovern and Edward M. Kennedy weighing in on the side of the workers and unions. In January of 1974 the National Labor Relations Board ordered Farah to offer its striking workers an opportunity to return to work and allow them to join unions. While Farah was able to remain in business, it was never able to regain its popularity. After the strike, many of the garment manufacturing companies in El Paso began to seek cheaper labor outside of the United States. Those companies that remained in El Paso became notorious for low wages and poor working conditions, leading to the founding of La Mujer Obrera, a group created to address both the loss of jobs and the abuse of the remaining workers in El Paso’s garment industry. La Mujer Obrera is still an active organization in El Paso, with a restaurant, co-op apartments, day care center, and museum.

To view a 1973 video about the strike, click here. [Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Bruns, Roger A. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2011.

Dray, Philip. There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America. 2011.

Hardesty, Rex. Farah: The Union Struggle in the 70s. New York: AFL-CIO, 1973.

Heidler, David Stephen, and Jeanne T. Heidler. Manifest Destiny. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Jensen, Joan M., and Sue Davidson. A Needle, a Bobbin, a Strike: Women Needleworkers in America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984.

Martínez, Elizabeth Sutherland. 500 years of Chicana women’s history = 500 años de historia de las chicanas. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Plummer, Roger S., Norman L. Camp, and Corrinne Crow. Railroad History. 1976.

Rohrbough, Malcolm J. Days of Gold The California Gold Rush and the American Nation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Woodworth, Steven E. Manifest Destinies: America’s Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.


Dance with the Dead

Do you ever feel like…somebody’s watching you? With Halloween just around the corner everyone is starting to get a little spooky, so it’s no wonder that photographing some of the dolls in the collection has our staff a little creeped out. Here’s a selection of our favorites…

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If you are looking for more spooky fun at the museum, be sure to get your Dance with the Dead tickets soon! The museum will be hosting its annual Halloween dance and masquerade on October 24th, from 8 to 10pm. The event features a live band, historical costume contest featuring famous (and infamous) dead Texans, ghost tours, art slam, a Dia de los Muertos exhibit, silent auction and cash bar. Get your tickets today!

Individual ticket: $25 (ITC Members $20)
Add a ghost tour: $10 (ITC members $5)
Table of 8: $500*
*Includes wine, food served at your table, event souvenir, private ghost tour for your table, 6-month family pass to ITC museum and events.

Object: Doll

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Jericho, Jordan
ca. 1960s
Materials: Cloth, wire, cardboard

This object is one of several dolls in the permanent collection at the Institute of Texan Cultures that were produced in the 1960s as part of a YWCA project based out of various Palestinian refugee camps. This program, which is ongoing, hopes to raise awareness of refugee rights and help female refugees support themselves and their families while living in the camps. Refugee camps are meant to provide temporary shelter for people who have had to leave their homes due to war, or violence. However, as these conflicts often take years or decades to resolve, many refugees are forced to spend large portions of their lives living in these temporary shelters.

This particular doll is labeled as having come from the Aqbat Jaber refugee camp near Jericho, Jordan. This refugee camp was established in 1948 as a result of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. This war, like many in the region, had deep historical roots. In 1516, as a result of the Ottoman–Mamluk War, the Ottoman Empire gained control over Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant. The Ottomans continued to control this region until the end of the first World War. The Ottoman Empire had sided with Germany during WWI and was divided into several separate nations after its surrender to the Allies. As part of this separation, the League of Nations granted France and Great Britain mandates over Syria, Lebanon, Mesopotamia (now Iraq), and Palestine (now Jordan & Israel). These mandates were created in order to help transition these areas from Ottoman rule into self government. Soon after receiving their mandate, the British government announced that they would further divide the area of Palestine into two separate states, called Palestine and Transjordan. The new Palestine was to be designated as a national home for the Jewish people, and Transjordan would become an semi-autonomous Arab state. After this decision was announced, Jewish Jordan_Palestinian_Refugees_1949_318px_c0321e5fd4immigrants from around the world began settling in the region. However, this territory was also home to an existing Arab population, which was uncomfortable with the increasing Jewish presence in the area. The two groups became increasingly at odds, leading to a number of protests and outbreaks of violence. After WWII the British announced they would be terminating their mandate of the area. The United Nations then drafted a new partition of Palestine, dividing the area into a new Jewish state (which would become Israel), an Arab controlled state, and an internationally controlled city of Jerusalem. However, as the mandate expired these new borders were still being contested in an ongoing civil war between the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of mandated Palestine. Immediately following the expiration of the mandate, the new Jewish state of Israel was attacked by Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq. By the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel had managed to extend its borders beyond those originally proposed by the United Nations. However, this would not be the end of fighting in the area. This conflict over territory and religion has continued to erupt into violence during the Suez Crisis (1956), the Six-Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), and others to this day. While many of the original refugees from 1948 have been able to leave the camps for their homes or new settlements away from the violence, these conflicts continue to force refugees to occupy camps like Aqbat Jaber decades after the fighting began.

388px-Femme_de_Ramallah_PalestineDolls like the one above provide excellent examples of traditional Palestinian dress and embroidery styles. Prior to 1948 Palestinian clothing styles were regional, with each area wearing a distinctive style of dress. This doll is wearing a garment that features the traditional Palestinian embroidered chest panel, called a qabbeh, girdle and veil. A handwritten inscription on the bottom of the stand, indicates that this doll may have been made to represent a woman from Ramallah. Traditionally, Palestinian women from the Ramalla area wore garments made of black, indigo or white linen (like the one on this doll) that were decorated with geometric and floral embroidered designs. [Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Banks, Lynne Reid. Torn Country: An Oral History of the Israeli War of Independence. New York: Watts, 1982.

Draper, Theodore. Israel and World Politics; Roots of the Third Arab-Israeli War. New York: Viking Press, 1968.

Gorkin, Michael, and Rafiqa Othman. Three Mothers, Three Daughters: Palestinian Women’s Stories. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Hamzeh, Muna, and Todd May. Operation Defensive Shield: Witnesses to Israeli War Crimes. London: Pluto Press, 2003.

Kawar, Widad, and Tania Tamari Nasir. Palestinian Embroidery: Traditional “Fallahi” Cross-Stitch. Munich: State Museum of Ethnography, 1992.

Morris, Benny. 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press, 2008.

Oren, Michael B. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Palestinian Refugee Camps in Jordan: Jerash, Irbid, Zarqa, Marka Refugee Camp, Baqa’a, Souf Refugee Camp, Amman New Camp. Memphis, Tenn: Books LLC, 2010.

Rosenfeld, Maya. Confronting the Occupation: Work, Education, and Political Activism of Palestinian Families in a Refugee Camp. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Terbeck, Rica. Business Activities As a Sustainable Livelihoods Strategy: A Field Study in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria. Saarbrücken: VDM, Verlag Dr. Müller, 2008.

Weir, Shelagh, and Serene Shahid. Palestinian Embroidery: Cross-Stitch Patterns from the Traditional Costumes of the Village Women of Palestine. London: Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Publications, 1988.

Using artifacts to teach

2013_5_1Here at the Institute of Texan Cultures we LOVE artifacts, as you can see in our weekly blogs and monthly photo quizzes. We think objects are a great way to introduce people, young and old, to new topics, and remind us of past events in different and sometimes unexpected ways. So, we’d like to help you use objects as teaching tools in your own classroom (or home) and show you new ways to look at history. The Education department here at ITC has come up with some great downloadable resources that can help you do just that! Be sure to check out Teaching With Stories, Lt. Colonel David M. Jones in WW2, which uses an object from the ITC permanent collection to help teach kids about the second World War, geography, and much more! Also be sure to check out their Artifacts in the Classroom activity to learn how to use your own artifacts to create your own fun learning experiences.

Object: Quilt

I-0269a (3)

Mary Meeks
San Angelo, TX
ca. 1940
Materials: Cloth, thread, batting

This object is a quilt that was made using the “Sunbonnet Sue/Dutch Doll” pattern. The images of “Sunbonnet Sue” are sewn on to the quilt in a technique that is called applique. Applique is the process of attaching one or more smaller pieces of fabric to the top of a larger background piece of fabric. This technique is different from a piecework (or patchwork) quilt top, where the top of the quilt is made from many pieces of fabric that have been sewn together near their edges. In both styles of quilt the batting is sandwiched between the back piece of the quilt and the top, and then all the layers are quilted together to form the quilt.


This is Melcher’s rendering showing Molly (left) and May (right) reading a page from The Sunbonnet Babies’ Primer. Image from Winter Park Public Library

The pattern “Sunbonnet Sue” was inspired by illustrations of little girls in bonnets, first seen on greeting cards in the late 1800’s. These illustrations were drawn by British editor Kate (Catherine) Greenaway (1846 – 1901) and they inspired Victorian women to place similar images on their quilts, creating the first “Sunbonnet Sue” quilts. An American illustrator by the name of Bertha Corbett Melcher (1872 – 1950) is often credited as the “Mother of the Sunbonnet Babies.” Melcher illustrated children’s primers and published her first book in 1900 titled “The Sunbonnet Babies,” which depicted young girls with their faces hidden by bonnets. After this first publication, writer Eulalie Osgood Grover hired Melcher to illustrate primers written by Grover. In 1902 the primer, “The Sunbonnet Babies’ Primer” was published and introduced Molly and May as the original Sunbonnet Babies. In 1905 Grover wrote “The Overall Boys” after repeated requests for little boys to be included in the primer stories. This series of primers continued for years with several stories and songs written about the the Sunbonnet Babies and the Overall Boys.

The name, “Sunbonnet Sue,” first began to be used late in the Depression era. Though in the southern part of the United States the pattern was also referred to as “Dutch Doll” until the 1970’s. There was also a boy pattern created, though there are several names for this pattern, such as “Overall Bill, “Overall Andy,” “Sunbonnet Sam,” “Suspender Sam,” “Fisherman Jim,” and many others.


“The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue.” Image from The Quilt Index.

In 1979 there was a quilt produced by the quilters of Lawrence, Kansas who had named themselves “Seamsters Union Local #500,” which was entitled “The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue.” In each block of this quilt Sue is shown being murdered in a different way. This inspired other quilter’s groups to create similar quit designs which showed Sue being killed or behaving in very non-traditional Sue type behavior, such as smoking, drinking, stealing, and other taboos. There is even a modern collection of embroidery patterns called “Sinbonnet Sue” that uses Sue to illustrate the Seven Deadly Sins and show her rebelling against societal norms.

Even though Sunbonnet Sue has been around for over 100 years she is still popular in her traditional form and even in non-traditional forms. If you are interested in quilts, the ITC is currently hosting the exhibition Texas Art Quilts and Modern Masterpieces, which will run until January 2015. [Jennifer McPhail, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:
Bausum, Dolores. 2001. Threading time: a cultural history of threadwork. Fort Worth, Tex: TCU Press.

Kiracofe, Roderick, and Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff. 2005. The American quilt: a history of cloth and comfort, 1750-1950. New York: Random House.

Radner, Joan Newlon. 1993. Feminist messages: coding in women’s folk culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Tilghman, Clara. “The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sun Bonnet Sue. ” (2012)

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