Mrs. Grace Jones and Prairie Farmer

Mrs. Grace Jones, Scotland County, Missouri, furnished many quilt patterns to Prairie Farmer (Chicago, Illinois) beginning in or about 1928 to the early 1930s.

Grace R. Riebel was born April 26, 1896, in Missouri, a daughter of Fred W. and Mary E. Riebel.  Her parents were also born in Missouri, but her father's parents were born in Germany and her mother's parents in Kentucky.  Grace married Elza K. Jones in Scotland County, August 19, 1919, and lived with her parents during the first year of their marriage.  Elza was born in Illinois, November 10, 1888, and served his country during World War I.  The 1930 Scotland County census suggests that Grace and Elza had no children.

Mrs. Jones' contribution to Prairie Farmer, March 24, 1928, believed to be among her first to this paper, is accompanied by a lengthy text telling of her life and quiltmaking activities which began at age 8.  (Note the piecing error in the Pine Tree block.)

Her contributions to Prairie Farmer were not the first she had shared with publications.  An enterprising Miss Grace, then 18, offered quilt pieces and patterns for sale to readers of the Wichita (KS) Weekly Eagle farm paper, March 27, 1914 (see separate Esther Millison page).  She wrote the Eagle's editor:

Dear Miss Millison:--In looking through the March 13th issue of The Weekly Eagle, I see where a great deal is said about making quilts.  I have made several quilts this winter and think it is a very pleasant occupation.  I think that every child should learn to piece quilts as it teaches them to sew and also the quilts are pretty as well as useful when finished.
  Few of the girls of today know how to piece quilts.
  There are so many beautiful designs for making quilts.  I myself have over four hundred different designs.  The easiest ones are the Four Patch, Nine Patch, Five Pointed Star, The Necktie or the Humming Bird.  The above are very easy for the children to piece.
  Some of the more complicated ones are The Odd Fellow's Charm, Rose Album, Garfield's Monument, Double Irish Chain, Cut Glass Dish, Lincoln's Platform, Texas Tears, Seven Stars, Road to Oklahoma, The Snail's Trail, besides the many basket and tree designs and a great many others.  All are very pretty.  I also have a complete alphabet similar to those that a Busy Worker sent to The Weekly Eagle.  I sell a pieced block with patterns to piece by, at twenty-five cents apiece or three for fifty cents and I furnish all of the material in the blocks that I make.  I send them anywhere in the United States at that price.  If any of the readers of The Weekly Eagle want a quilt pattern, send me the name of the pattern that you want and for the above price, I will mail it to them.  I think that I have any pattern that you want, as I have over four hundred of them.  I do not get The Weekly Eagle all of the time.  I wish that I did, as I think that it is a fine paper.  Miss Grace Riebel, R. 2, Arbela, Mo.

Grace clearly owned a Ladies' Art Company catalog when she wrote this letter, and had a newer catalog with 500 designs by March 24, 1928, when Prairie Farmer published what is believed to be her first letter to the magazine.  Prairie Farmer referred to her as their 'quilt pattern lady,' April 5, 1930, and that she had been "loaned a large collection of quilt patterns by one of our readers.  She now has a collection herself of more than 1,800 quilt patterns."

By the time she selected 22 of those designs for Prairie Farmer's first quilt booklet, she had accumulated a "beautiful collection of 2,000 patterns which she has gathered from many states and from many ages."

Grace died in June 1974 at Arbela, Scotland County, Missouri.

© Wilene Smith, September 13, 2010, all rights reserved

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