ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  publications

The Sample Collections of Machine Embroidery of Eastern Switzerland in the St Gallen Textile Museum
in: Textile History, 22 (2), p. 165 - 176, 1992, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

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  The St Gallen embroideries frequently received praise at large international and national exhibitions.

At the 1867 world exhibition in Paris there was a whole "Salle des broderies suisses" on show to visitors. Important stages for the St Gallen embroidery were the Vienna Exhibition in 1873, Philadelphia in 1876, Paris in 1878, 1889 and 1900, though the town was not represented at the exhibitions in Chicago in 1893, Milan in 1906 and Brussels in 1910 (30). At the world exhibition of 1878 in Paris there were no fewer than 30 representatives of the embroidery industry of eastern Switzerland. As well as official catalogues and illustrated albums, individual countries commented on the national departments of the world exhibitions.

Commissioned reporters wrote essays about the Swiss products (31). However, although in the middle of the nineteenth century the representation of products at an international exhibition was regarded as an honour, attitudes changed towards the end of the century.
A certain fatigue with exhibiting could be discerned, and it was said that these exhibitions cost too much money, time and effort. Moreover, it was believed that customers informed themselves about Swiss products everywhere else but at world exhibitions.

Finally, there were also different reasons why embroiderers were often hesitant to exhibit their novelties: "The creator of a novelty in the field of embroidery guarded his products by keeping them secret and refusing to show them at an exhibition where they could be used by his rivals ... It is troublesome to observe how these people (the imitators) lie in wait, at the start of the season, to see what the others bring, in order to pounce upon it .." (32).

  Contemporary announcements and advertisements at home and abroad also provide a picture of the Swiss machine embroidery. Montgomery Ward & Co. in New York published in 1895 a catalogue which described children's bonnets as "fine Swiss embroidery" (33). It also mentioned "white Swiss embroidered edgings and insertions". Lace-trimmed underwear and nightgowns were described as "Hamburgh edging".

Suitable pieces of underwear were often illustrated in Harper's Bazaar, the largest contemporary American fashion magazine (34). Its German counterpart, Der Bazar, also showed how lace was being used. Moreover, inland mail-order catalogues, among others and one from "Jelmoli Zurich" in 1914, stressed the quality of the St Gallen embroideries: "Children's clothing, underwear, decorated aprons, and also ladies' robes made from cambric and voile - only first class products from St Gallen" (35).

Fascinating labels and envelopes for embroidery were produced by the packaging and printing firm of Seitz, which was founded in 1863 by Johann M. Seitz. It changed its name in 1913 to Eidenbenz, Seitz & Co., and is today called Eidenbenz AG (36).

Among the opulent decorations with flower wreaths and rocaille-moitfs there were lithographic or photographic illustrations of Appenzell women engaged in hand embroidery, but most of all pictures of the Swiss countryside, preferred by tourists. Motivs such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the white men's first encounter with the Red Indins in America, indicate the spreading market for Swiss embroideries with exports to South America, Australia and China.


Envelope for embroideries


Envelope for embroideries

30 - Wilhelm Meile,
Die Schweiz auf den Weltausstellungen Nr. 2, (Zürich 1914), p. 92
31 - Ferdinand Stamm,
Offizieller Ausstellungsbericht (Wien 1873); Jakob Steiger-Meyer, Bericht über die Wiener Weltausstellung; Otto Alder, Weltausstellung in Paris; G. Delabar, Bericht über die Weltindustrieausstellung in London im Jahr 1852; Leopold Iklé, Pariser Ausstellung von 1900.
32 - Alder, Weltausstellung in Paris, p.9.
33 -
Montgomery Ward & Co. Unabridged Facsimile Catalogue No. 57, 1895 (Dover Publications, New York, 1969).
34 - Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper's Bazaar 1867/1898, edited by Stella Blum (New York, 1974).
35 -
Frühjahrskatalog Grands Magasins Jelmoli Zürich 1914.
36 -
Eidenbenz, Seitz & Co: Lithographie, Offsetdruck, Cartonnage, 1863-1938, 75 Jahre (St. Gallen, n.d.).

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content  Last revised 25 July, 2004