Some of the most engaging novelty prints are the ones which aren't immediately obvious - the ones that look like abstract geometrics or florals until on closer inspection, like a magic eye picture, their true nature becomes clear. It's these that make the Americana collection especially awesome: an ostensibly abstract swirl transforms into a rollercoaster; a generic Deco floral becomes an umbrella-carrying crowd; a geometric reveals a jazz band or a group of tophatted gentlemen transfixed by a passing blonde. This is the genius of the novelty print.
The New York Times predicted that the biggest hit would be Clayton Knight's Manhattan, designed in a Futurist style "so modern that it suggests a view of all our skyscrapers piled up together, seen from an elevated train rounding a sharp curve".
Dresses in Clayton Knight's Manhattan print
April by Clayton Knight (I'm totally going to have to repro/recolour this at some point) update: I've finished the repro and you can buy this print from spoonflower in grey, olive green and slate blue colourways.
Map of Paris by Ralph Barton
Dress in Ralph Barton's Paris fabric
Tickertape by Charles Buckle Falls
Thrills by Dwight Taylor
Stadium by Dwight Taylor
The collection was intended to be absolutely of the moment, reflecting "the latest whims and fads [...] of the rapidly changing age to which they belong", and some of the designs were inspired by popular culture of the time. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by the cartoonist Ralph Barton referred to the novel by Anita Loos that Barton had recently illustrated; while John Held's depiction of a jazz band is titled Rhapsody as a nod to George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (which also happens to be one of my favourite pieces of music).
Rhapsody by John Held
Celebrity contributors to the Americana Prints included Wimbledon tennis champion Helen Wills, who created two tennis-themed patterns.
Game of Tennis II by Helen Wills
Accessories by fashion illustrator Helen Dryden
Which is your favourite?
Sources: Twentieth Century Pattern Design; Metropolitan Museum of Art; V&A Museum.