The Timelessness of Feed Sacks

Jun 1, 2017

Feed sacks have played an important role in American history. Other than holding flour, seeds, and animal feed corn, feed sacks were often fashioned into clothing by women from before the Great Depression, all the way up to the 1960s. The use of feed sacks as clothing had a direct impact on the way that companies marketed their products.

"One of the first things that happened was that they did figure out a way to make wash-out inks," says Linzee Kull McCray, Iowa City writer and author of "Feed Sacks; the Colorful History of a Frugal Fabric."

"The next thing that came along was they would put embroidery patterns, or actual dolls that you could cut out, and they would print those right on the bags to make them more valuable to the consumer. And one of my favorite examples is 'days of the week' towels, where if the wife had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, she would say to her husband, 'Go back and get me Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday!' So it was a really interesting example of marketing, and marketing to women, and realizing that women held, even though they didn't have the income necessarily, or the salary, they made a lot of the decisions about where the family's money was spent."

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Linzee Kull McCray; Loretta Smith Steele, a West Virginia woman who makes quilts from feed sacks; and Ellen McKinney, assistant professor of "Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management" at Iowa State University.