Sabina Sheaff, Haverford,

Delaware County, Pennsylvania, 1795

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sampler size: 17¾” x 16¾” • frame size: 19¾” x 18¾” • sold

Made in 1795 by Sabina Sheaff, a young lady from Haverford, a small town just west of Philadelphia, this is a splendid, praiseworthy sampler. It showcases Sabina’s considerable talents as a needleworker and is made all the more appealing because of the winning combination presented: it is a formal arrangement with a fresh and folky large pictorial central image. The stylized border, the typography of the verse and the stepped lawn formed of colors layered upon one another are classic characteristics of the many fine Philadelphia samplers made throughout the 18th century, often in a refined and symmetrical composition. But it is the compelling, freeform image that dominates the sampler – huge flowers springing out of a striped, double-handled urn flanked by a pair of outstanding, animated birds on tall legs and with patchwork coloration. Sprigs of strawberries provide further embellishment. Sabina’s sampler is a visual treat.

Born on August 16, 1776, Sabina was the daughter of Philip Sheaff (1741-1829) and Anna Maria (Tanger) Sheaff (1736-1829). Both sides of the family were from Germany and were prominent within the large Pennsylvania German community of southeastern Pennsylvania. On February 11, 1802, Sabina married George Bishop and they remained in the area, raising a family. Sabina died on December 10, 1853 and is buried in the Newtown Friends Meeting Cemetery; her husband likely had a family connection to the Quaker community.

Sabina stitched two classic sampler verse across the top, employing the contrasting color and upper case first letter for every word, a regional characteristic. The date, 1795, is stitched at the end of the verse on the left.

The sampler is worked in silk on fine linen gauze. It is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into its original molded mahogany frame. 

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