Iona and Rosalie Wilkson operated a quilt factory in Ligonier from 1914, then in 1943 it was incorporated. Rosalie was 16 years younger and gradually worked into the business.
In 1908, Iona was requested to make quilts for the trousseau tea being given by Carolyn Weil Loesser for her daughter,Hattie. The tea was held in the big white house at 705 South Main Street. One of the quilts was made of rose pink sateen in the Honeymoon design. It featured a large heart in each corner and fancy scalloped edges. The second quilt was a reversible whole cloth quilt in cotton satin with raspberry on one side and Delft blue on the other. The quilts were displayed at the tea and created great interest among the quests. Numerous orders followed.
Ligonier’s large Jewish community began to purchase finished quilts and encouraged Iona to organize a business to support her endeavors beyond their patronage. In 1914 the Wilkinson Quilt Company was incorporated.
Although begun as the typical cottage industry in the Wilkinson home, business soon dictated that the company expand. The first factory was in the Bee Hive Building that still stands at the northeast corner of Sixth and Grand Streets. Eight or ten quilt frames could work at one time and employ 50 quilters. The eventual home of the Wilkinson Quilt Company was the wool storage building at 308 North Martin Street. The main floor included the showroom and offices, while the upper floor served as the workroom and provided storage, batting, fabrics, and supplies.
In May of 1914, Iona traveled to Chicago to hold a quilt display in the Congress Hotel. Other selling exhibitions were held in large cities in the Midwest and then they went on to the East Coast and Florida. Advertisements were placed in Harper’s Bazaar, House Beautiful and Vogue.
Iona thought of herself as an artist. She used whole cloth as her canvas, needle stitches in place of a paintbrush, and solid colors as her paint. The sizes of quilts ranged from 27” X 30” to 90” X 90”. Prices ranged from $3.75 to $46.50. Washing instructions were included. A 1920’s catalog listed sixteen patterns.
For more information and an opportunity to see the quilts visit the Ligonier Visitors Bureau and Heritage Station Museum.