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TrÈs Chick

May 2023
1min read


The five Deters sisters, who still live in the farm country of Putnam County, Ohio, where they grew up, posed for the camera one day in 1945 wearing identical dresses made from chickenfeed sacks. Roselia Deters Verhoff, front row, left, sent us this photo along with an explanation of the girls’ multiple garb: “In the late 1930s and until the 1960s, livestock feed was sold in colorful printed-cotton sacks, mostly manufactured by the Bemis Bag Company, of Minneapolis. This, of course, was a marketing gimmick, and when Dad went off to get our chicken feed at Moorhead Elevator, Mom would remind him to be sure to look over the selection of bags before making his purchase. Sometimes we sisters had a certain garment in mind and needed a special color. Or perhaps we had a need for a few more bags to complete a particular project.

“After the bags were emptied, Mom would take out the stitching and wash them. A hundred-pound sack provided material that measured about thirty-eight by forty-seven inches. My sisters and I would scramble to get the one or ones we favored. Here we had clearly gathered enough material to make five matching dresses.”

And if a multiplicity of daughters in matching dresses isn’t a dizzying enough prospect, Mrs. Verhoff recalls that “feed sacks were also used for other articles of clothing, as well as curtains, quilts, table covers, card-table sets, and vanitytable drapes.”

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