A quilt honoring the Black Horse Troop is part of an exhibit at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis celebrating the state’s 2016 bicentennial. The quilt by Judy Laval Morton, widow of Thomas R. Morton ’46, is part of the exhibit “19 Stars: Quilts of Indiana’s Present and Past,” which runs through Oct. 4.
Indiana was admitted to the union in 1816 and was the 19th state. Morton’s quilt is one of 19 contemporary star-themed quilts featured. The exhibit also includes 19 historic star-patterned quilts made between 1830 and 1980 that are part of the museum’s private collection.
The BHT quilt is a tribute to her husband and to her children, Morton said from her Evansville, Ind., home. In addition to her late husband, Morton’s son, Michael Deeg, was a Trooper in the mid-1980s, and her daughter, Julie Deeg, attended summer camp. Judy Morton was involved with the Mother’s Club during those years.
“It’s in honor of Culver and what they do,” she said. Making something Culver for the bicentennial of our state “called out to me.”
“Everything about Culver pleased me,” Morton said, “except the distance away from my children.”
Morton has done needlework since she was a child but didn’t start quilting until 1976, inspired by the nation’s bicentennial. Her quilts have won national awards and been displayed in Chicago, Houston, Paducah, Ky., and Williamsburg, Va. The Black Horse Troop quilt was completed in 2012 prior to her husband’s death that same year. It is the last quilt Morton has completed.
The 90-by-90-inch quilt took a year to make and features a blue periwinkle fabric. Morton worked on the quilt with three Amish women from southern Indiana. “I wanted us to make the quilt together,” Morton said. She did the corner artwork, the appliqué, the binding, and some of the quilting. Her collaborators did the piecing and helped with the quilting. (Morton collects Amish quilts and has donated her collection to the University of Southern Indiana.)
Morton said the horse designs in the corners were inspired by the commemorative enamel boxes from Culver’s 1997 Black Horse Troop Centennial.
The Bethlehem Star in the center of the quilt is bordered by smaller stars representing Culver’s “star quality,” Morton said. “Culver Academies does a superb job of making an exemplary student” and she has many fond memories of the school.
Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker, the museum’s curator of social history, invited Indiana quilters she knew or who had been recommended to make the contemporary quilts for “19 Stars.” The quilts had to include stars and be at least four-foot square.
The Black Horse Troop “is delightful because it showcases piecing and appliqué and is a variation of a historical format,” she said.
Teeters-Eichacker noted that historically quilts were functional and made to be used on beds. Most of the contemporary quilts in the exhibit were made as décor or as wall hangings.
Just as the Academies takes a young person and pieces together an individual fit for the citizenship of the morrow, Judy Morton has pieced together a tribute to her family, to Culver, and to the Hoosier State.
“I hope it represents the peak level of my experience as a quilter,” Morton said.
Editor’s note: For information on museum hours and admission pricing, visit indianamuseum.org. The “19 Stars” exhibit will relocate to the Evansville (Ind.) Museum of Arts, History and Science from Oct. 25 to Jan. 10 “for a southern Indiana exposure,” Teeters-Eichacker said.