Betty Ring writing in Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers and Pictorial Needlework 1650 – 1850, vol. I (Knopf, 1993), tells us much about “New England’s most exquisite neoclassical silk embroideries,” many of which she states originated at the school run by the Misses Patten of Hartford, Connecticut. The needlework made by their students dates from the very beginning of the 19th century and Mrs. Ring describes the “coats of arms … often surmounted by a gold or silk raised-work eagle above a swagged garland suspended from spangled bow-knots in the upper corners. The central motif was often partly encircled by palms or fronds with golden, bearded ears of wheat.” The Patten sisters, Sarah, Ruth and Mary were granddaughters of Rev. Eleazer Wheelock (1711-1779), the founder of Dartmouth College; they taught the daughters of the prominent citizens of Hartford and beyond.
Students at the Patten School produced a number of these outstanding coat of arm needleworks, as evidenced by those illustrated by Mrs. Ring, as well as by the examples published by Susan P. Schoelwer in Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art and Family 1740-1840 (The Connecticut Historical Society, 2010) as figures 42 and 49. We are privileged to offer this newly discovered example, one that offers strong aesthetic appeal. Depicted are “The Lewis Arms” and this is the work of Elizabeth Lewis, whose initials are very gracefully painted between the arms and the lower border.
Elizabeth Lewis was born on March 8, 1785, the daughter of George and Elizabeth (Penfield) Lewis of Portland (now Chatham), Connecticut. The Lewis family descended from George Lewis (1600-1664/5) who was born in England and settled in Barnstable, Massachusetts in the 1630s. A family note that accompanies this silk embroidery indicates that Elizabeth was fourteen years old when she made this, and that it later descended to her grandson, James Bolton. In 1815, she married Festus Cone, and their daughter, Elizabeth Cone, later married Thomas Bolton; this James Bolton was their son. Festus Cone (b. 1784) served as Captain in the 25th United States Regulars during the War of 1812. Afterwards the family removed to Moscow, Livingston County, New York, where Festus was a farmer. Census records show the family there until at least 1870.
The silk embroidery was worked in silk, padding and metallic thread on silk. It is in excellent condition and in in a fine period frame with a replaced eglomisé glass mat.