In my local history research, I rely upon paper records, bronze yahrzeit plaques, and stone matzevot. My favorite records, though, are those created in cloth and thread. They are tablecloths, embroidered with names numbering in the dozens or hundreds. All are long, white pieces of fabric, but on some the names are elegantly organized, while on others the names are strewn about haphazardly. Some follow consistent patterns, and others are a riot of competing styles. Most are food-stained.
These signature tablecloths were fundraisers in which individuals, families, and organizations donated to have their names or their loved ones’ names added to the tablecloth. Often the names were placed to keep family members together. The majority of the tablecloths I’ve rediscovered were initially created in the 1940s and 1950s, though many were updated for decades after.
In August 2021 I delivered the lecture below about the tablecloths. Please contact me if you know anything more about these wonderful artifacts—or have one I don’t yet know about!