Quilt, Star of Bethlehem pattern variation, Ellen Morton Littlejohn (1826–1899), Silk and cotton, American

Quilt, Star of Bethlehem pattern variation

Ellen Morton Littlejohn (1826–1899)
Margaret Morton Bibb (ca. 1832–ca. 1900–1910)
ca. 1837–50
Made in Logan County, Russelville, ("The Knob"), Kentucky, United States
Silk and cotton
88 1/4 x 87 1/8 in. (224.2 x 221.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Roger Morton and Dr. Paul C. Morton, 1962
Accession Number:
Not on view
Multicolored and patterned silks make up the very finely pieced star blocks. These alternate with unpieced blocks to a pink-and-green changeable silk. The unpieced blocks have been intricately quilted and stuffed, each with a different plant or flower. Carded cotton was used for the stuffed areas and the batting. The edge of the quilt is bound with lavender silk, and the backing is of solid pink glazed cotton.

Two sisters, both enslaved African-Americans who worked for Marmaduke Beckwith Morton, made this silk quilt, which combines beautiful workmanship and sophisticated design. It originally adorned one of the beds in Morton’s family seat, known as "The Knob". The quilt is composed of pieced blocks in the "Star of Bethlehem" pattern. In the interstices between the blocks, the plain silk areas are decorated with quilted floral and fern patterns, each one different. The quiltmakers, known as "Aunt Ellen" and "Aunt Margaret", were born at "The Knob"; their mother, "Aunt Eve" was the "mammy" to twelve Morton children, including Marmaduke, who then eventually owned her children. In Morton family remembrances, Ellen was known as a good seamstress, while her younger sister Margaret was the family cook for many years. Even after slavery was abolished, Ellen continued to work at "The Knob", and cared for Marmaduke Morton up until his death in 1887.