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Amish Quilts

Crafting an American Icon

The definitive study on the history, meaning, art, and commerce of Amish quilts.

Second Place Winner of the Design and Effectiveness Award of the Washington Publishers

Quilts have become a cherished symbol of Amish craftsmanship and the beauty of the simple life. Country stores in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and other tourist regions display row after row of handcrafted quilts. In luxury homes, office buildings, and museums, the quilts have been preserved and displayed as priceless artifacts. They are even pictured on collectible stamps. Amish Quilts explores how these objects evolved from practical bed linens into contemporary art.

In this in-depth study, illustrated with more than 100 stunning color photographs, Janneken Smucker discusses what makes an Amish quilt Amish. She examines the value of quilts to those who have made, bought, sold, exhibited, and preserved them and how that value changes as a quilt travels from Amish hands to marketplace to consumers. A fifth-generation Mennonite quiltmaker herself, Smucker traces the history of Amish quilts from their use in the late nineteenth century to their sale in the lucrative business practices of today. Through her own observations as well as oral histories, newspaper accounts, ephemera, and other archival sources, she seeks to understand how the term "Amish" became a style and what it means to both quiltmakers and consumers. She also looks at how quilts influence fashion and raises issues of authenticity of quilts in the marketplace.

Whether considered as art, craft, or commodity, Amish quilts reflect the intersections of consumerism and connoisseurship, religion and commerce, nostalgia and aesthetics. By thoroughly examining all of these aspects, Amish Quilts is an essential resource for anyone interested in the history of these beautiful works.

About the Author

Janneken Smucker is an assistant professor of history at West Chester University. She is the coauthor of Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown and Amish Crib Quilts from the Midwest: The Sara Miller Collection. A volunteer with The Quilt Alliance, she is also a quiltmaker.


"The gap between what artisans intend and what dealers and owners come to believe is entertainingly conveyed in this study by the textiles historian Janneken Smucker... The book is timely since the history of folk art collection is under scrutiny."

"Just as people who buy the New Yorker for its cartoons feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth without reading beyond the punch lines, readers may take this up for the pictures alone: they are sumptuous... [Smucker] writes appealingly and clearly, always defining quilt jargon and explaining cultural mores as she tells of the seemingly humble Amish quilts and the people who have loved them."

"It is handsomely and colorfully designed, playing on the theme of Amish quilts... Highly recommended."

"The story of the rise of Amish quilts tells us more about the values of the art world than it does about the Amish. Yet it is a story that reminds us that constraint fosters creativity, and scarcity creates desire."

"A fascinating social history of the Amish quilt phenomenon."

"As a history of the Amish quilt as an art object and a study of the commercialism of products imbued with Amishness, this work is invaluable. Smucker's exploration of how non-Amish collectors have been able to define and impose value on Amish products and how dealers, Amish and non-Amish, have appropriated the appeal of ‘Amishness’ while trading on stereotypes sheds much light on how mainstream society constructs the identity of minority ethnic groups."

"This compelling book looks closely at one form of material culture—Amish quilts—illuminating both their particular role in American history and the holistic methods by which to examine material culture... The book is well written and organized, thoroughly researched, and beautifully illustrated... It provides an important material culture case study, reminding us to look carefully at multiple cultural contexts as we build historical narratives."

"A fascinating story of the influence that the art world and commercial demands can have on a craft. Smucker debunks the theory that all Amish quilts are dark and cautions the reader against falling into the trap of generalisation when discussing their design. It is a refreshing examination of the story of Amish quilts that highlights how the art world has defined their value."

"Amish Quilts presents a story that lives up to its subtitle's promise, explaining how these fabric creations have become American icons. Without sentimentality, she unfolds the events that have been too long packed away, revealing the actions and motives of many of the people who played significant roles in the creation of the quilt market and of making new meanings for these objects."

"Smucker's engaging writing style and keen sense of American history and consumerism makes this book suitable for academic libraries that service art and fashion programs, textile collections and museums, and public repositories in communities where craft is integral to daily life."

"Smucker has combined meticulous scholarship, clear presentation, and thoughtful analysis to give general readers, museum curators, art historians, and material culture specialists the wherewithal to consider such claims of authenticity."

"Janneken Smucker provides a fascinating account of Amish quilts by placing the quilts into the context of history, culture, art, economy, and community."


"Smucker’s excellent book is beautifully written and will significantly advance the scholarship in quilt studies and, more broadly, material culture studies and art history. This is the book that will stand as the authoritative text on Amish quiltmaking."

- Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University Museum

"Janneken Smucker offers a comprehensive study of Amish quilts in context, placing them beyond the Brethren communities into the wider world of commerce and culture. She insightfully explores the Amish quilt and its role among critics and galleries, dealers and pickers, hired seamstresses, folk art gurus, and American mythmakers."

- Barbara Brackman, quilt historian

"This book is a landmark not only in the field of quilt history but also in American social history. The author traces the cultural biography of Amish quilts from the hands of their makers to the hands of their collectors, with many stops in between. The extraordinary color plates reveal the beauty of Amish quilts, while the impeccably researched text reveals the complexity of this craft tradition."

- Janet Berlo, University of Rochester

"Janneken Smucker has woven together facts about a fascinating and complex people—their history and their quilts—and has completely pulled back the curtain (or should I say quilt?), like no one else before to reveal the inside history about collecting and commerce of these prized objects. This is a book many of us have been waiting for."

- Roderick Kiracofe, author of The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort, 1750–1950
Johns Hopkins University Press
Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies
From 17


9781421410548 : amish-quilts-smucker
Electronic book text
320 Pages
$29.00 USD
9781421423999 : amish-quilts-smucker
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320 Pages
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