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Family Record Sampler, Mary Murdock,

Winchendon, Worcester County,
Massachusetts, circa 1820

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sampler size: 20½” x 17” • framed size: 24¼” x 20¾” • price: $4700

Genealogical samplers serve as an excellent combination of function and ornament. They recorded and preserved information regarding the cohesive family unit, which had taken on a heightened importance in the early years of the new Republic. This form of sampler, an American invention, was made in various regions and towns throughout the country, and they have held a significant area of interest for sampler collectors since the exhibition and book by Gloria Seaman Allen, Family Record: Genealogical Watercolors and Needlework (DAR Museum, Washington, DC, 1989). We are delighted to offer this excellent family record sampler made by Mary Murdock of Winchendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Mary was born October 3, 1811 to Ephraim and Zibiah (Bixby) Murdock, the youngest of seven children. The Murdock family began in 1680s when Robert Murdock and his brother John Murdock emigrated from Scotland to Plymouth. Ephraim was of the fourth generation in Massachusetts; he was born in Winchendon and became a prosperous farmer there. He was also known as a sleigh builder, and in 1843 he established the first public high school in Winchendon. The Murdock family was an estimable one in Massachusetts. Mary’s brother Elisha founded the E. Murdock & Company and he took over the “The Murdock School” from his father, which became known as the finest high school in Massachusetts.

In 1834 Mary wed Amasa Whitney, and they had two children. The Murdock and Whitney families were well-intertwined; Mary’s siblings married Whitneys, as well. Prior to Mary and Amasa’s engagement, in 1831, records indicate that Elisha and William Whitney “established the first machine shop in Winchendon… Elisha employed himself in the manufacturing of tubs, pails and other wood wares using machinery invented by his father… Winchendon was known as ‘The Home of Woodenware Manufacture” (E. Murdock Records, 1866-1954, National Museum of American History). The Murdock and Whitney names are deeply rooted in Winchendon, in fact, the Murdock-Whitney House, built in the 1820s by Mary’s brother, at 151 Front Street, is now the home of the Winchendon Historical Society.

Mary’s beautifully composed and finely worked sampler is a wonderful document of this prominent family’s history. The register is presented in leafy wreath complete with a bow, and a lustrous flowering surround worked in shades of greens and blues and ivories and pinks on tendrilling vines. Her inscription is accompanied by a popular sampler verse reflecting the pride she took in her needlework and, we assume, her family. Notably, Mary was only 9 years old when she worked this sampler.

Worked in silk on fine gauze linen, her sampler remains in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a 19th century molded gold-leaf frame. 

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