I’m a relative novice to vintage patterns, but I’ve had enough pass through my hands to recognize the typeface and visual style of the “Progressive Farmer” pattern (see below), which American Age Fashion wrote about recently as “Becky Stott’s pattern.” Read the blog here.
Doesn’t it seem a little odd that The Progressive Farmer has a “pattern department” in New York City?
Visually, the appearance of that “Progressive Farmer” pattern is a very close relative of these:
Those patterns only seem to come from different companies. I’ve noticed that there was at least one pattern company in New York that specialized in making patterns that would be sold through regional newspapers. Sometimes they bore the name of a pattern company like “Marian Martin” or “Anne Adams,” which were possibly the names of individual designers. But the illustration style, the lettering, and the instruction sheets’ layout and typeface are nearly identical, and, although they were mailed in envelopes with different (but stylistically similar) designs on them, the return address was almost the same for many companies.
RoseButtons wrote about this 2009, but sadly, the site is no longer active.
Rose Buttons quoted Barbara Brackman’s book Women of Design:
Quilt Historian Wilene Smith has determined that Nathan Kogan, Max Levine and Anne Bourne formed a business called Needlecraft Service, Inc. in 1932. As yet pattern historians know nothing about the actual designers who created the innovative patterns and drawings. To add to confusion about company history, Smith found that Needlecraft Service set up two competing branches to make the most of cities with competing newspapers. Laura Wheeler might offer patterns in one newspaper and Alice Brooks in another. Each “designer” had a different New York city address, which Smith thinks were mail drops to distinguish the bylines. The company also used regional names such as Carol Curtis in the Midwest and Mary Cullen in the Northwest. Marian Martin and Ann Adams [sic] were additional bylines, [primarily] for clothing patterns.
Apparently, some newspapers would sell such sewing patterns under their own names, e.g. “The Progressive Farmer.”
This pattern from the 1930s was listed on Ebay; it says “Own Name” at the bottom:
It took me a long time to realize that it was a sample — meant to be sent to a newspaper, which would have its “own name” printed on the patterns it chose to feature! [At least, that’s my guess.]
The Vintage Traveler confirmed in a comment on americanagefashion.com that The Progressive Farmer was a regional newspaper. It’s possible that Becky Stott’s Progressive Farmer pattern was also sold under other newspapers’ names. The mailing address, Old Chelsea Station, NY, is the same as that on an “Alice Brooks” pattern that was listed on Ebay, and on “Needlecraft “patterns, like this transfer pattern for an embroidered quilt. Only the box numbers — 147, 162, 163 — are different.
When I checked the locations of all these addresses (for Alice Brooks, Anne Adams, Marian Martin, Needlecraft, and the Progressive Farmer pattern) on a map of New York City, I found that 243 W. 17th Street (Anne Adams) and 232 West 18th Street (Marian Martin) were on the same block and may have been two entrances to the same building. The Old Chelsea Station Post Office (Needlecraft, Alice Brooks, & Progressive Farmer) was right across the street, at 217 West 18th.
I think Wilene Smith was right – all these addresses were mail drops for one company, Needlecraft Service, Inc. The separate mailing addresses just made it easier to sort the pattern orders received from all over the country. Of course, this is a theory; I would welcome comments, additions, and corrections from people with more expertise.