1825 - 1850 Mary Hise Norton's Silk Quilt

1825 - 1850 Mary Hise Norton's Silk Quilt

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Mary Hise Norton of Russellville, Kentucky, owned this elaborate silk quilt in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Each of its thirty-six 14-inch stars is pieced using 32 diamond shapes cut from velvet and striped, checked, plaid, brocaded, and warp-printed silks. The stars are set off by 4-inch and 8-inch squares and 4 x 8-inch rectangles along the edges, all of plain green silk.
The larger silk squares and the rectangles have quilted and stuffed motifs of flowers or foliage sprays, each a different design. Their backgrounds and the smaller squares are quilted in a diagonal grid. The pieced stars are outline-quilted, all at 12 stitches per inch.
Mary Hise Norton’s quilt has been displayed at many venues and has won prizes, among them the 1917 McCracken County (Kentucky) Fair Blue Ribbon and in 1981 the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society Prize.
In 1981 the donor wrote: “Our family has a rare quilt... the preservation of my quilt is my primary consideration. The quilt has been saved and passed down through seven generations. When my grandmother died in 1930 it was taken from her trunk and stored in a cedar chest from then until the late 70’s.... It is a treasure that has been added to my life. It is too rare and old to be used on a bed, I have decided to donate it to [the] Museum.” The donor noted that her great-great-grandmother, Mary Hise Norton, was known for her “artistic worth.”
The daughter of Frederick and Nancy Hise, Mary Hise was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 1797. She moved with her family to Russellville, Kentucky, about 1810. On April 11, 1813, she married William Norton. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on September 2, 1781, William Norton also moved to Kentucky, settling in Russellville about 1810.The Nortons were the parents of six sons and three daughters and owned a blacksmith shop and iron store. They continued to live in Russellville, Kentucky, until William’s death in 1858 and Mary’s in 1878.
According to David Morton, who in 1891 wrote The Nortons of Russellville, Kentucky, “William and Mary Norton journeyed together as husband and wife for nearly forty-five years, until they became so thoroughly assimilated as to think, talk, and even look alike.... Mrs. Norton was more robust in body and mind and more vivacious in temperament than her husband. She did her own thinking, had well-defined opinions and expressed them freely, loved to talk and talked well. A model housekeeper, she rose up while it was yet night and gave meat to her household, nor did her candle go out by night. She ate not the bread of idleness, and her children called her blessed; her husband also praised her. Much of the energy and financial skill evinced by her sons was derived by inheritance from her.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
date made
Second quarter, 19th century
Norton, Mary Hise
Physical Description
fabric, silk, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton, silk (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 85 in x 82 in; 216 cm x 209 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Bonita Abernathy
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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