It seems that the people of Jacksonville have always been big on “doing with it”. Grammatically, “do with” is an idiom, a verbal expression, and it means to use what one has at hand or to persevere in less than ideal circumstances.
After moving their town to accommodate the International and Great Northern Railroad, the citizens of Jacksonville might have thought their days of resourcefulness were over, but an economic depression followed in early 1873, a depression that persisted for almost 10 years. The 1922 Silver Jubilee was celebrated at the start of the Roaring Twenties, but the Great Depression came seven years later, in October 1929. The Vanishing Texana Museum exhibits a relic of “doing with it” during that depression.
In the late 1800s, many vendors began packing flour, sugar, and other foods in cotton bags. This reduces the need for bulky and expensive wooden barrels. Flour sacks were tightly woven cotton cloth sacks and consumers later converted them into useful items that could be used at home. One of the most popular items made from these bags was women’s dresses.
Recently, Mr. John Battle donated a white flour sack dress made by his grandmother, Mrs. Vicey Battle. Vicey was the wife of Cleveland Battle (1893-1995), a well-known local farmer, who was widely admired and appreciated as a “shade tree vet”.
Our distressed white dress is 36″ long and 16″ wide. Vicey added a red and white checkered collar and sleeve trim to finish it off. Although bags like this have often been washed with bleach or bluing, the manufacturing information and stamps are still visible, bleeding down the front of the dress in several places. Originally, the bag contained 100 pounds of flour.
In addition to dresses, Depression-era women recycled these bags to make everything from diapers to curtains, underwear and aprons. Smaller scraps were used to make tea towels, quilt squares, doll clothes, and many other household items. Our 1933 Sears & Roebuck offers enough cotton fabric to make a dress for 60 cents, or about $12.00 in 2021 dollars, big savings in tough times.
Soon big companies like Pillsbury, Gold Metal, Mothers and others recognized that one way to increase sales was to make bags with colorful designs and use water-soluble inks for logos and lettering. company labeling. In 1933 a booklet entitled “Sewing with Cotton Bags” was published to help rural housewives maximize the use of these cotton bags.
With the onset of World War II, the use of cotton bags was not only thrifty, but also patriotic. Due to the need for combat uniforms and equipment, in 1943 the War Production Board restricted the use of cotton fabrics and established standards for clothing design to minimize their use. After the war, coated paper bags replaced cotton bags, and the golden age of cotton bag dresses began to pass.
We hope you soon plan to visit your Vanishing Texana and see this unique reminder of our former citizens’ personal efforts to “deal with it.”
Your Vanishing Texana Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission and parking are free at our 300 South Bolton branch.