Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


The start of the First World War stimulated among other things a reassessment of America's relationship with Europe. Many in the art world voiced the need for the industrial arts to assert independence and William Laurel Harris echoed popular sentiment when he wrote in Good Furniture magazine:

We are ..... a great industrial nation without an industrial art. Now is the time, and now is the hour, when by intelligent action our manufacturers can rectify this lack of practical thought in our educational efforts. The manufacturers, the educators and the artistic portion of the nation must join hands in creating an industrial art that will bring prosperity, happiness and the charm to all the American people."

Harris's call to arms for the industrial arts was taken up with particular fervor by Morris De Camp Crawford, a textile scholar and editor at Women's Wear, a daily journal for the fashion industries. (Fig. 1) Unlike many of his colleagues in the textile and fashion trades who feared the impending separation from Europe, Crawford optimistically viewed the war as the perfect opportunity for American textiles and fashions to claim its independence. In 1916, Crawford assembled a group of educators and industrialists from New York to discuss the plight of American design and its improvement through proper education in the industrial arts. Together with Henry W. Kent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Albert Blum of the United Piece Dye Works, Dr. Clark Wissler of the American Museum of Natural History, and E. W. Fairchild, publisher of Women's Wear, Crawford crafted a plan to provide training for artists and manufacturers through an ambitious series of lectures, exhibitions, and more importantly, a textile design contest. The resulting "Designed in America" campaign involved hundreds of artists and silk manufacturers between the years 1916 and 1922 and produced some intriguing textiles based on museum artifacts.