Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amana Colonies

About 12 years ago, I had an opportunity to visit the Amana Colonies in southeastern Iowa. I was tracking invoices for Indigo dress goods printed in my hometown of Wheeling,WV by the Stifel Calico works and sold to the Amana Colonies in the 1920s.

I spent 3 days immersed in their archives, chatting with the museum staff and touring the remaining 'colonies'. It was fascinating.

Until 1932, Amana was a communal religious society. The group known as the Community of True Inspiration begin meeting in 1714 in Germany. They left Europe in 1843 and settled near Buffalo, NY. Needing more farmland, the community relocated to the Iowa River Valley in 1855.

In accordance with their practices, the woman wore indigo-printed high necked, long sleeved blouses with long Indigo print skirts. Being a communal society, everyone worked and depending on the work, woman also wore Indigo printed aprons. The colony had its own print mill and produced timeless indigo prints.

Here are some of their prints from 1917.

I expected the classic blue and white indigos and even these two blues/greens.

I found these illuminations charming.


  1. As the new year starts, Margo, I want to thank you for all the pretty snippets you show here on your blog. I was going through the wonderful fabrics from your fabric history programme the other night - wanting to use them, but hating to cut into them - I'll get up my strength and do it soon, I know!!
    Happy birthday to you - be safe and careful down this long and slippery slope until spring!
    Warm good wishes
    Janet in cold and snowy Nova Scotia

  2. Wheeling WV???? is this city near New Martinsville WV???? this bring me back to 1976, my first trip to the
    I am not crazy for indigo in general: french women in the country, wore this aprons you are speaking about.
    Thanks for your interesting blog

  3. Yveline Yes These blue and white prints are now very much country or working people fabrics. I have a lecture on Indigos...'4,000 Years of Indigo from the Color of Kings to the American Cowboy' (jeans). This includes 'blue collar' workers. I will post some polychromes tomorrow. These were high end French dressgoods c. 1830. Margo