Saturday, November 21, 2015

Salesman Sample

In the 1800's how did stores or people that wanted to buy an iron bed, see what was available?  Dry good salesman would travel from town to town with a horse drawn wagon full of samples that store owners would place orders for.  One of the more popular miniature samples the salesman would carry with him were "iron bed samples."  Many people mistake them for "doll beds."  They were actual miniature replicas of the different bed designs, with detailed castings.

In the early 20th century salesmen samples were a common item.  The idea behind them was simple:  salesmen needed a smaller (easily transportable) version of their product to show off to retailers.  These samples also enabled retailers to display and demonstrate the features of larger items which needed to be ordered from the manufacturer.  Salesman's samples were well built and highly detailed.

Miniature furniture started life as a traveling salesmen sample.  The miniature piece of furniture was an identical twin of their larger grown up counterparts.  The idea behind this concept was a salesman could be gone for many weeks from the workshop collecting orders from all over the country and when he returned to the shop he would begin construction. 

Salesmen samplers include hundreds of products:  furniture, plows, dishes, cast iron stoves, sewing machines, ice boxes,  chicken coops, wagons.  Just let your imagination run wild and there was probably a salesmen sample.  Ticking fabric has been purchased and a box pillow/mattress will be sewn for the bed.

What better way to display those Jo Morton LWC quilts than on a salesmen sample iron bed?  Speaking of Jo Morton, she is releasing a book in January called Jo's Little Favorites.  The book includes patterns for 13 small classic quilts (most under 36" x 36").  Jo shares her techniques for accurate piecing and helpful tips on choosing and using fabric.  There is also a section on displaying small quilts in your home and incorporating quilts into your decorating scheme.  This is not a paid advertisement for the book. 

 Grandmother Bessie had an iron bed on her sleeping porch. Grandfather Isaac enjoyed many afternoon naps on that iron bed dreaming of his farm, his family and the next delicious meal Grandmother Bessie would be preparing for him.


  1. i love salesmen samples! i used to collect them. they are so cool!

  2. What a fascinating explanation for these small furniture items!
    I learned something new today - Thank you for sharing.
    LOVE your beautiful little quilts, they will look wonderful on your sample bed.

  3. We have just a few salesmen samples! The ones you showed are so cute. I think those little quilts will look just wonderful on the bed.

  4. Very interesting! I love your salesman samples. And the quilts!

  5. Betty: Thank you for showing us how it was done, very interesting.


  6. I bet all those lovely vignettes with the salesman samples are in your home. How nice to have them to use with your beautiful miniature Jo Morton quilts. Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving - Mel