Folk Art Hooked Rug with Barbershop Quartet Motif, Country Of Origin: United States, Circa Date: Mid 20th Century – This adorable American hooked rug gives you a glimpse of early 20th-century life in four-part harmony. Rug hooking is a craft that continued to be popular until the 1930s. The artists who created these pieces were inventive, and you can find them in almost any pattern or color. This creative piece features a barbershop quartet with the iconic barbershop pole, and if you look closer, you can discover a few details that give you clues to the story behind this piece.
The piece features three phrases, which are the titles of a few famous barbershop quartet standards. The first is “Sweet Adeline.” This song was first published in 1903 and was first made popular by the Haydn Quartet. It is a barbershop standard and has been recorded many times throughout the decades.
The second song title that floats over the singers’ heads is, “The Old Oaken Bucket.” It was adapted from a Samuel Woodworth poem written in 1826 and set to music by George Kiallmark in 1887. It was made famous by the Haydn Quartet in 1899 and became a standard that was sung by schoolchildren at the time. The Haydn Quartet changed its name to Hayden Quartet in 1910 and disbanded in 1914.
The bottom of the piece features the title, “That Old Gang of Mine.” This song was composed in 1923 by Ray Henderson and published by Irving Berlin. It became an instant hit in the Ziegfeld Follies and Vaudeville shows. These clues would appear to place the creation of the piece after 1923. It also seems to pay tribute to the famous Hayden Quartet, but there is another clue.
In a standard barbershop quartet, the four singers stand in a certain order. They are typically tenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. The second tenor typically sings the lead. You will notice in this piece that the second tenor is singing loud and proud. Of course, we will never know the real story behind the creation of this piece, and it certainly presents more questions than it answers. Was this piece created for someone who was a lead singer in a barbershop quartet? What is the connection to the Hayden Quartet, or were they just fond of them?
In all honestly, we will never know, but that is the intrigue of this fascinating piece of early 20th-century artwork. It is small enough to mount and become a charming piece of your decor. One thing for certain is that this piece will be a conversation starter.