Finding history in bags

Do you remember cloth flour sacks, feed sacks, or seed sacks and that there were patterns on them? Mothers would wash these cloth bags and make beautiful dresses and shirts for their children. Smaller unused pieces would be salvaged and placed into quilts to keep you warm in the winter months.

If you do remember, or want to find out more, join fellow community members at the Mulberry Center Church at Wilson Brewer Park, 220 Ohio Street in Webster City on July 12 at 1p.m. for an interesting and informative Humanities Iowa program, “Iowa History in a Cloth Bag,” presented by Michael Zahs.

The 45-minute presentation explains how cloth bags and the revolutionary idea of marketing to women helped Iowans survive the Great Depression and the shortages of World War II. Flour sacks, feed sacks, and seed sacks will tell the story from relief work by Herbert Hoover to clothes and quilts in the 1950’s. At the presentation, Michael Zahs will have three long tables piled high with cloth bags that he has collected from garage sales, auctions, estates, and more.

Michael Zahs grew up on a century farm near Haskins as part of a nine-generation Iowa family. Michael attended a one-room school and has a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Northern Iowa. He taught junior high science and Iowa history for 39 years. In 1989, he joined with Dr. Loren Horton in creating the “Iowa: Eye to I” class/tour. This was the first graduate level class taught at Iowa Wesleyan College and developed into a series of seven classes. The classes cover art, literature, history, geology, food ways, ethnicity, architecture, nature and music. Students are immersed in all things Iowa in the classes, which are taught on a bus traveling the state.

Michael has given programs on state and local topics for over 35 years. He is very involved in historic preservation, log buildings, cemetery work, and state and local history. This will be the first in a series of Humanities Iowa presentations that will take place at the Mulberry Center Church this summer. All are invited to attend the presentations.

“The humanities are our cultural and intellectual heritage the sum of human experience, thought, and expression. They give us knowledge of the past, insight about the present and wisdom for the future. They teach us about others and help us to know ourselves, Zahs said.