| Tree of Life|
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan
79” x 90”
MSUM 2013:32.1, Gift of Charles Voelker
Photo by Peter Glendinning, all rights reserved Michigan
State University Museum
During the 1930s, The Detroit News was a major sponsor and supporter of quilting. By the decade’s early years, the newspaper was offering quilting patterns and was regularly featuring quilting in its Beauty in the Home column. In 1933, the column’s editor, Edith B. Crumb, launched a quilt club that readers could join and share letters about their quiltmaking activities. By 1934, the response to the quilting club was so strong that a new column, Quilt Club Corner, was launched. The column featured quilting news from club members, profiles of quilting clubs, and news of quilt shows. The paper also underwrote a quilting program on WWJ radio.
In late 1933, Edith Crumb announced that The Detroit News would be sponsoring a quilt show to be held November 17-19 at the Detroit Naval Armory. More than 1,500 quilts were entered and more than 10,000 visitors viewed the show. The shows continued into the 1940s. In 1940, this Tree of Life quilt made by Bertha Voelker won the Grand Prize at the show.
The Detroit News has retained very little archival material about the column. Today, we can piece together the history of the column through family stories and quilt column clippings. The MSU Museum is currently digitizing and adding to the Quilt Index materials related to this part of our state’s quilting history.
Bertha Voelker was a prolific quiltmaker and a leading member of the Detroit News Quilt Club Corner (1932-1940). She won many awards for her quilts and was frequently mentioned in the Detroit News. This quilt won the best of show award at the 1940 Detroit News Quilt Show. It was made for her grandson, Charles Voelker, who donated it to the MSU Museum.