Friday, February 25, 2011

The Ladies of Farm Journal Magazine 1920s-1940s

There were random quilt articles in the early years of the magazine, but a winter quilt article, with and without a byline, began appearing on an annual basis in Farm Journal magazine in January 1921. Well received by the quiltmaking world, this once a year tradition continued until 1947. The byline Mabel Hoffecker Collins or Mabel H. Collins appeared in Farm Journal magazine in January 1934 and continued on when the publication absorbed The Farmer’s Wife and was renamed Farm Journal and Farmer’s Wife around 1939-40. The publication reverted back to its old name with Farm Journal with the August 1945 issue of the magazine.

With Mabel at the helm, quilt features appeared in the Farm Journal January issues from 1934-1938, changing to the February issue in 1939 and in the Farm Journal and Farmer’s Wife February issues from 1940-1947 when a regular annual quilt feature seems to end. It should be noted that an occasional unsigned rogue quilt article would be thrown into other issues for information or ad purposes, but not on a consistent basis like the Collins pieces. The name Mabel Hoffecker Collins or Mabel H. Collins only appeared in these very brief magazine articles, some might even call them ads, debuting quilt patterns and some of these same brief pieces were reprinted in various editions of Farm Journal and Farmer’s Wife Quilt Patterns Old and New quilt pattern service catalogs and help date the different editions of these booklets.

There are still lots of questions that need to be answered concerning Ms. Collins. Was Mabel Hoffecker Collins a real person who was brought in as a free-lancer for quilt articles or a regular part of the staff? Was she a “consumer friendly” name for a variety of people within the company who filled mail-order request for quilt patterns in the tradition of Virginia Snow of Elgin, Illinois or Grandmother Clark of St. Louis, Missouri?

Was Collins a pen name for the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania magazine’s Household Editor Mary Ross Reynolds whose personal papers can be found in the Michigan State Library Special Collections Department and with the Florence Hollis and Bethany Ross Reynolds Papers at the Five College Archive and Manuscript Collections? Along with Florence LaGanke Harris and Mrs. Ellen E. Webster, Reynolds was asked to be a judge in the Second National Patchwork Quilt Contest conducted by the Eastern States Exposition home department in September 1933. Mrs. Reynolds retired from Farm Journal Magazine in 1947, which was the last year for the annual quilt feature in the magazine. Rogue quilt articles appeared after that date, but never with the byline Mabel Hoffecker Collins.

The name Jane Moreland was also featured with fashion articles and patterns during this time period in myriad issues of this same farm magazine and at least one quilt article (January 1932 – page 11) prior to Mabel’s appearance on the scene in 1934. Could Jane have done double duty in the fashion and quilt departments?

Real person or pen name, Mabel Hoffecker Collins remains a bit of a mystery. Mabel’s story is a project-in-the-making for a researcher who specializes in Pennsylvania (Farm Journal and Farm Journal and Farmer’s Wife) quilt history or has an interest in quilt designers who appeared in farm related publications.


  1. Love the eagle pattern. Do you have any more eagle decade project quilts to share with us, pretty please?

  2. I have a digital copy of a Farm Journal quilt pattern catalog I bought on ebay a few years ago. I am trying to date it and your article at least gives me some clues! Would love to know if there is a listing or index of quilt related publications from the Farm Journal. Thanks!

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