Mexican Rose

April, 2010

Mexican Rose

Maker unknown

Circa 1850-1870
Possibly made in Kansas
Ardis and Robert James Collection, 1997.007.0484

Dyeing and printing of textiles is a complicated process. Back in the 1800s, red calicoes were frequently achieved by dyeing the ground red using madder in what was called the "Turkey red" process. The next step was to remove or discharge the red color in some areas by printing them with a bleach compound. These discharged areas could then be overprinted with other colors, if desired. If the discharge printed fabric was not properly rinsed to remove the chlorine bleaching agent, or if the bleach was too strong, it weakened the fabric, resulting in complete disintegration of the white areas over time. Damage such as this resulting from an inherent defect caused by the manufacturing process is called an inherent vice.

This Mexican Rose quilt's original red calico flower petals have widespread discharge bleach damage. Around 1980, however, the owner of this quilt at that time, an antiques dealer, decided to cover the severely damaged petals with a solid red fabric. He did an excellent job, so good in fact that only after a student here at the quilt center researched the publication history of the quilt and found a pre-1980 photograph that showed the damage did we discover that the quilt had been altered.