I Pay Tribute to My Flag
Westphalia, Clinton County, Michigan
74” x 80”
MSUM 2013:70.1, Gift of Gene and Fred Hengesbach
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan
State University Museum
This quilt was made for the 1933 Sears Century of Progress National Quilt Competition. The original design is a flag flying on a flag pole. The pole fabric has faded and is hard to see. Below the flag in the quilting is this inscription:
"I pay tribute to my flag and the country for which it stands"
Donor Gene Hengesbach recalls:
When the Sears and Roebuck Company sponsored its “Century of Progress National Quilt Competition” in early 1933, our mother created a flag quilt and stitched in it, “I pay tribute to my flag and the country for which it stands.” It received a merit award green ribbon. My brother and I were very aware of the quilt as we grew up. We saw the pride she took in it and the care she gave it; washing it every year, air drying it out of doors, and carefully preserving its ribbon. She stored it in an oak blanket chest.
Our mother quilted all her life until health and age intervened. As was common in her day, her mother taught her to quilt at a very early age. The oldest example I saw and handled was a small, seriously worn white and yellow, pieced quilt that I believe she kept because it was one of her earliest efforts. Her last goal was to make a quilt as a wedding gift for each of her grandchildren as they married. She succeeded in making quilts for the three older grandchildren but lamented that she was unable to do so for the younger three.
Our mother always had a wooden floor quilt frame which we helped erect and take down. At times it remained set up for days or even weeks until a project was completed. Enclosed is a photograph take in the early 1980s in the dining area of her kitchen in her home in Westphalia, Michigan. It shows her, seated third from the left, together with relatives and friends and a quilt they prepared as a prize at the local annual 4th of July Festival. Several groups in Westphalia made similar prizes every year.
Also enclosed is a photograph of our mother, the quilter, taken in the middle of the Sear’s quilt competition’s four month time frame-late February 1933. It also seems to fit the theme of the flag quilt as she was married on Washington’s Birthday of that year.
Her sons Gene and Fred Hengesbach hereby proudly offer the quilt and its ribbon to the Michigan Quilt Project for preservation as an integral part of Michigan history.