Midwest Folk Art

Midwestern Folk Art Gallery

One of the greatest strengths of Peoria Riverfront Museum's collection is its Midwestern Folk Art Gallery. This collection comprises more than 600 works of art spanning three centuries of Midwestern creative expression. Most notable are the textile collection - including the Glick collections of Illinois coverlets and quilts - and the Illinois River wildfowl decoy collection. A separate Decoy Gallery features permanent and changing displays of works by the many carvers and manufacturers living and operating within the Mississippi Flyway during the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries.

Folk Art Highlights

The Folk Art Galleries feature changing displays of important individual artists and manufacturers, including William D. Neher (American, 1868-1961), Louis O. Lussier (Canadian-American, 1832-1884), Charles Perdew (American, 1874-1963) and Anna Pottery (Anna, Illinois, 1859-1896).

Christian Wagner & August Braten
Pekin, IL
coverlet, 1849, wool and cotton
Gift of Merle & Barbara Glick, 1995

Coverlets are woven bed covers with roots in Europe. Both decorative and warm, they display the weaver's skill and have great aesthetic appeal to collectors today. Complex figural designs such as we see on this coverlet were difficult to produce without a Jacquard attachment, invented in 1806 by Joseph Marie Jacquard of France. The attachment used a series of punched cards that guided the raising and lowering of the warp (lengthwise) threads during the weaving process. Many Jacquard coverlet weavers—all men—signed and dated their textiles on the decorative corner blocks at the bottom corners.

Jacquard weavers used patterns and motifs derived from well-known folk traditions of Western Europe, especially Germany. Floral motifs appeared most frequently; star and sunburst designs were also common.

The earliest American jacquard coverlets were woven in New York and Pennsylvania in the late 1820s. As coverlets saturated the market in the Eastern states, and as mechanization shifted weaving into factory settings, the weavers moved westward into Ohio and Indiana, and eventually to Illinois, looking for new markets. They settled in or near agrarian communities with sizeable Germanic populations.

All 18 weavers who produced figured and fancy Jacquard coverlets in Illinois between 1841 and 1871 are represented by the 43 examples in the Lakeview Museum collection. Most of them wove coverlets to order during the winter months when farming activities slowed down, although a few worked at their looms year-round as their primary occupation.

Six of the weavers were active in or near Peoria between 1846 and 1860. Christian Wagner (1820-1868) and August Braten (circa 1808-1900) wove this example in Pekin, Illinois in 1849. Braten appears to have been an apprentice, who took the teacher’s loom and pattern cards with him when he moved to Urbana, Illinois in 1850. This is one of only two Illinois coverlets with buildings on a border, and Wagner wove both of them.