The Book

Marguerita Mergentime: American Textiles, Modern Ideas

Donna Ghelerter, editor, with Virginia Bayer and Linda Florio
Foreword by Madelyn Shaw
Hardcover; 8.25 x 10”; 144 pages; 145 color/39 black and white images
Publisher: West Madison Press
Distributor: D.A.P.

Innovative, passionate, and clever, Marguerita Mergentime is credited with bringing bold patterns to 1930s American interiors. Mergentime helped shape the sensibility of the twentieth-century home at a time when modernism was being defined, contributing original textiles to Radio City Music Hall, Russel Wright’s American Way, and the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Articles and advertisements promoted her career across the United States. Essays highlight Mergentime’s life and career, and over 150 images illustrate her innovative designs featuring asymmetry, politics, folk art, typography, and quizzes. Marguerita Mergentime: American Textiles, Modern Ideas reintroduces the woman who asked, “Are you allergic to meaningless uninspired patterns in printed cloths?” and places her squarely back on the scene.

When Virginia Bayer’s mother, Marguerita Mergentime’s older daughter, passed away in 2008, Virginia found many surprises relating to her maternal grandmother that had been preserved, but stored away: textiles, articles and papers, a scrapbook, photographs, and mementos. These bittersweet finds led Virginia to learn more about her designer grandmother and the decorative arts of 1930s New York in which her grandmother had played a significant, yet forgotten, role. Over the years there were many fortuitous confluences, with both people and objects, as Virginia unearthed information about her grandmother’s life and successful career. In 2014, when Linda Florio and Donna Ghelerter contacted her, curious and excited about Mergentime after Linda’s discovery of an intriguing tablecloth full of words and phrases, Virginia welcomed them and shared what she knew. Lively discussions began and shared interests emerged. Together the three conceived of a book that, after fruitful research and finds, has become Marguerita Mergentime: American Textiles, Modern Ideas. The experience of working together on this project echoes how Mergentime described one of her travels: “Well this trip was the most eye filling—soul satisfying, amusing, exhilarating, delightful experience—I did have fun too.”


VIRGINIA BAYER is the granddaughter of Marguerita Mergentime. She maintains the family archive of the designer’s textiles and work. The archive includes table linens, fabrics, and samples, as well as newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, and various other archival materials related to Mergentime’s career.

LINDA FLORIO is principal of Florio Design, an award-winning visual branding and graphic design studio with three decades of experience with arts and cultural organizations. She has created over 100 publications, including The Eternal Letter (MIT Press, 2015), recently chosen for “Most Outstanding Design,” 2016, from Ippy (Independent Publisher Book Award). Her previous experience includes 9 years as senior graphic designer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and more recently, a seven-year relationship with the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), developing exhibition graphics, signage, public collateral, and essential publications such as Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting, Slash: Paper Under the Knife, and Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities.

DONNA GHELERTER is an independent textile and costume historian in New York. Publications include: “Marking Cloth” in Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) (2010), “Fashion/Film Dialogue,” in CUT! Costume for the Silver Screen (2004), and contributions to the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (2005). She is former assistant director of the Cora Ginsburg Gallery, specializing in textiles and costumes of the 16th–21st centuries.

MADELYN SHAW is curator of textiles at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Select publications include Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War (2012, with Lynne Z. Bassett), “H. R. Mallinson & Company” in American Silk: Entrepreneurs & Artifacts, 1830–1930 (2007), preface to Modern Threads: Fashion and Art by Mariska Karasz (2007), and “H.R. Mallinson & Co., Inc.—‘Dare to be Different’” in All That Jazz: Printed Fashion Silks of the ’20s and ’30s (1998).