Autograph albums filled with not only autographs but also poems and sketches were especially popular here in America in the 1820s. This fad translated to quilting in the 1840s with a variety of Album blocks containing signature, verses and sometimes even tiny sketches. This also was with a time of westward migration in the country. Women would often collect signed blocks from their family, friends and neighbors. These blocks and the Friendship quilts made from them were treasured reminders of a community left behind. In this 5 1/2" block, you can just barely see the background shading in the print.
In the 1830s, a new mechanical printing technique developed to create a design on fabric in which the ground color was shaded or washed in different intensities of the same color. The colors could have a smooth gradation or ripples and zig-zags. When this was done in changing colorations it was called "a rainbow print". Sometimes the stripe was then overprinted with a floral or bias plaid design. These prints were called by various names including "Ombre"- the French word for shaded or tinted or "Fondu" French for melt or dissolve.