By Molly Hilburn, Sun Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive Info: News – Apr 30, 2016
POCAHONTAS — The basement of Anna Cook’s Pocahontas home houses one of the largest collection of feed and flour sacks in the United States.
Cook, 75, said the sacks are a part of American history, and when she realized it hadn’t been documented, she took it upon herself to do just that. Now, those feed sacks can be found in Johnny Cash’s boyhood home, the American Girl Doll Company and even the Smithsonian.
“Ralph and I were big collectors of anything old,” Cook said. “Our plan was to make a museum one day. We want to share history. This was our goal, to share our history and past for our young people and to educate them and bring back good memories for the senior citizens.”
Cook said the reason for wanting to share the collection of feed and flour sacks is because no one had yet documented that part of history. That’s why in June of 1989 she published the first book on the subject, “Textile Bags, The Feeding & Clothing of America.”
“This was part of our American history that was not being documented,” Cook said. “Feed sacks and flour sacks were part of every American home because that’s what you brought your food products home in. People needed to know that this was a part of their grandmother and great-grandmother’s lifestyle. It was part of the time period.”
After Cook published her book people started contacting her, wanting her to do exhibits and donate items. She said she and her late husband, Ralph, who shared her love for collecting anything old, traveled all over the United States giving lectures and showing a variety of dresses, dish towels and quilts that were made from the sacks.
“There were four of my feed sack items in the Smithsonian, and the exhibit was feed bags. That was in 1990 when my book was published,” Cook said. “It was right bedside the flag when you walk in the Smithsonian — a whole display case of ladies’ skirts, a matching little girl’s skirt and a set of dish towels.”
From there, Cook said the American Girl Company contacted her. They were looking for a flour bag to make a doll’s purse. They used one of Cook’s flour sacks to make the Kitt Kittredge doll’s “Hobo Outfit,” and it can be found in her historical collection.
“That was truly one of our honors, that they used one of our flour sacks from our collection,” Cook said. “It’s just what Ralph and I have quietly done all of our lives that we really enjoyed.”
For Cook’s late husband, one of his proudest moments was when they donated items to Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess.
Items donated include a homemade cotton mattress that sits on Johnny Cash’s bed where he slept as a boy, feed sacks that were made into curtains that hang in the kitchen window and a quilt top that hangs from old quilting frames at the entrance to one of the rooms in the home.
“Truly, as my book said, it was the feeding and clothing of America,” Cook said. “You brought the food product in your home and you clothed your family with the bags they were in. Many people were ashamed to say, ‘I’ve got on a feed sack dress,’ but I was always proud of mine. My mother starched and ironed those, and they were just beautiful.”