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Tracy Miller Family Quilt
Delphine Paulus Miller (b. ca. 1868-?)
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan
1930-1936
Cotton with cotton filling
67.5” x 81.5”
MSUM 6594.1; Gift of Tracy and Joanne Miller
Photo by Fumio Ichikawa, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

This extraordinary one-of-a-kind quilt, made by Delphine Paulus Miller between the years 1930 and 1936, is a testimony to one woman's creative genius and versatility. The quilt, made as a gift for Miller’s son Tracy and his wife Margaret, is composed of intricate appliquéd designs taken from her own original drawings and from her mother’s original paper cuts. Many blocks portray family members. For instance, the picture of a woman with a baby and child was meant to portray Miller’s daughter-in-law Margaret and two of her children. The boy pulling the cat’s tail is one of Miller’s grandsons.

Miller, the granddaughter of Leland's first citizen, Antoine Menseau, was born circa 1868 in a log cabin in Leland, Michigan. She lived most of her life in Detroit. In addition to being an accomplished quilter, Miller was proficient in painting, bead work, lace and rug making, sewing, and, according to her letters, was an avid canner. A lace piece designed and made by Miller in 1908 depicting an eagle with the American flag was given by her to the Michigan State Historical Museum in Lansing, Michigan. Much of her best work was done late in her life. This quilt, her masterpiece, was made while she was living on Pontiac Street in Detroit. Although Miller made lace and other goods for sale, she never felt that she had the recognition she deserved. In a letter dated August 13, 1935, Miller wrote:

  [Detroit hasn’t] found me out yet, but they’re going to. I’ll probably have some of my work in the “News” soon, then hope to do something worthwhile “yet” even though I am almost 67. It is never too late to try, even if I have been trying all my life.  

From Michigan Quilts: 150 Years of a Textile Tradition

Detail of the center of the quilt Photo by Fumio Ichikawa, all rights reserved by the MSU Museum


Delphine Paulus Miller second from top with her sisters, taken in Detroit.
Photo courtesy of Tracy and Joanne Miller
 



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