A few months ago we were given a large collection of textiles and garments by Pepin van Rooijen of Pepin Press, Amsterdam. We are slowly going through the many boxes, photographing, cataloguing and numbering the contents. Various pieces and groups are now online, including Lebanese fashion garments, cowgirl outfits and garments (part of the USA collection), as well as many items of hand and machine lace.
The last few days have seen us looking at the embroidery boxes. One box in particular contained many examples of machine embroidery that represent various techniques and machines types. The box also included some surprises, such as a skilfully worked piece of machine embroidery depicting the mythical phoenix bird and the text "Gruss aus Sudetenland!" Sudetenland used to be part of Czechoslovakia and consisted of a German speaking enclave. In 1938 it became part of Germany following Hitler's annexation of Austria, Sudetenland and the Polish Corridor. After the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), Sudetenland was once again made part of Czechoslovakia, its name was changed and most of the German population was forced to emigrate.
The use of a German text and the image of a phoenix (a bird image relating to re-birth and resurgence) suggest that this embroidery dates to the late 1930's or early 1940's and reflects the annexation by Hitler's Germany of parts of what was then Czechoslovakia.
A second embroidery from one of the boxes is also related to war, but this time the First World War (1914-1918). From October 1914, various American and Canadian charities purchased food, including flour, for sending to Belgium. The flour mills started to send their flour in cotton bags to the Netherlands (which was neutral during the war). This vital commodity was then sent onto war stricken Belgium. Many of these bags had printed designs wishing the Belgian people peace or with patriotic symbols and messages. See also the TRC Needle entry on this subject.
These bags were re-used for a wide variety of functions, including garments, curtains, bedding and so forth. Many were also cut up and the printed sections were embroidered in Belgium and some of them then sent back to Canada and the USA as souvenirs, to raise money and as a way of saying 'thank you' for the flour.
Among the collection we were given by Pepin there is the front section of a flour bag that has been hand embroidered. The embroidered flour bag includes the texts "Campbell and Ottewell Peace Maker Patent Edmonton - Alta Bemis Winnipeg". There is also a large image of a flying dove (symbol of peace) carrying stalks of wheat. All of this indicates that this is a WW1 embroidered flour bag. The bag was produced by the Canadian flour milling company of Cambell and Ottewell of Edmonton, Alberta. The company was founded in 1899 under the name of the Dowling Milling Company by Ezia Dowling (died 1907). Its general manager was A. G. Campbell. In 1906 the company was sold to the partnership of Campbell and a man called Richard Phillip Ottewell (1848-1942). The mill was initially called the City Flour Mills and shortly afterwards re-named Campbell and Ottewell Co.
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 5 April 2017