By: Claire Somersille Nolan
The Star of Bethlehem Variation Quilt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City was made by Aunt Ellen and Aunt Margaret, slaves of Marmaduke Beckwith Morton at “The Knob” in Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky. Very few quilts identified as being made by slaves exist. Even fewer of these quilts possess documentation identifying the slave by name as is the case with this quilt. The data regarding this rare quilt and its makers adds valuable information to the body of facts concerning antebellum quilt history. This study verifies the date that this important quilt was made, proving that the quilt was made while the women were enslaved. This study also reveals the identities of Aunt Ellen and Aunt Margaret, illuminating the lifestyle of these slave quiltmakers after emancipation. This was accomplished using books, wills, censuses, a death certificate, and an account book.