The History of Flour Sack Towels
Herman Goertzen notes (see photo) little girls' dresses had the same patterns in the material. You could tell who were sisters by the pattern their dresses were made from. He says the companies that made the flour and feed sacks soon caught on and created new patterns on the sacks. "Well, the chicken feed usually came in a patterned material, and the ladies liked to sew at the time."
From the 1800’s to around 1950, food staples such as flour, sugar, cornmeal, and chicken feed were packaged in tightly woven 50 or 100 pound cotton sacks. During the American Great Depression, between 1929 and the early 1940’s, times were hard for many. Frugal housewives would reuse these cotton sacks and make them into clothing, toys, quilts, curtains, pillowcases, undergarments, and of course, dish towels. The re-use of flour sack towels became widespread, and the flour companies took advantage of this trend by printing the sacks with flower prints, pretty borders, and doll and toy patterns to encourage housewives to buy their brand of flour. Women would swap and sell the sacks to one another to obtain a particular print or pattern they fancied.
In the mid to late 1950’s, flour companies began using paper sacks which was a cheaper method of packaging. With the growth of new prosperity in America, the re-use of flour sack towels became a thing of the past.
Flour sack towels are making a comeback today. As a kitchen towel, flour sack towels are far superior to a terry dish towel most commonly used today. They are lint free, dry quickly, wash beautifully and can be used for a variety of household uses and craft projects.