Wed, 02/15/2017 – Sun, 05/21/2017

Payne Hurd Gallery

This exhibition showcased printed silk fabrics that celebrated the modern lifestyle made possible by science and industry. During the 1920s, Americans marveled at technologies like electricity, cars, and radios that transformed daily life. This enthusiasm continued in the 1930s but was colored by the Depression—many hoped that science and industry could solve problems like poverty and unemployment.

On display was a sampling of the wide variety of designs made by American silk manufacturers at this time. The Museum holds one of the largest collections of these silks in the United States, with prints that range from sports and movies to food and hats. The most creative silk companies commissioned their designs from artists, illustrators, and industrial designers. Women would then buy the silks by the yard at department stores in order to make their own clothes or have them made by a dressmaker. Thanks to the inventive silks featured in this exhibition, women of the Twenties and Thirties could show off their era’s machine-driven modernity via their fashion.

American, Lindbergh’s Trans-Atlantic Flight Dress or Scarf Fabric, 1927, printed silk crepe. Gift of Kate Fowler Merle-Smith, 1978


Silk for an Industrial Age was supported through the generosity of the Harry C. Trexler Trust, the Julius and Katheryn Hommer Foundation, the Century Fund, the Bernard and Audrey Berman Foundation, the Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment, the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, the Rider-Pool Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Friends of the Museum.


Featured image: Marshall Field & Co. Inc., manufacturer (American, 1852-2005), Watch Parts Dress Fabric, from theTechnocracy Prints series1933, printed silk crepe. Gift of Kate Fowler Merle-Smith, 1978