Mary Kendall, Cambridge,
Massachusetts, circa 1792
An important group of 18th century Massachusetts samplers has been of interest to curators, scholars and collectors for many decades. The makers of these samplers were girls from prominent families from the Middlesex County towns of Cambridge, Waltham, Lexington, Concord and Medford, and it is thought that they made their samplers at a boarding school.
In vol. I of Girlhood Embroidery Betty Ring states that these are “attractive samplers usually in vertical form with wide, deeply arcaded borders at the top and sides, and with a saw-tooth border which encloses a center section that often includes one alphabet and a verse above a variety of pictorial elements. A house is most common, but there may be figures, trees, flowerpots, or various combinations of motifs. Nevertheless, they can be easily recognized by their typical borders and similar workmanship. Many pieces are undated … this style emerged about 1790, was worked steadily until 1805, and occasionally occurred much later.” Some of the public institutions holding samplers from this group are the Baltimore Museum of Art, Cooper-Hewitt and the Concord Antiquarian Society.
Mary Kendall worked this outstanding sampler which represents this group admirably; it is signed, “Mary Kendalls work wrought in the thirteenth year of her age.” It most closely resembles another exceptional sampler from this group made by Hannah Cutter, circa 1798, now in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and published in Girlhood Embroidery, vol I, figure 76. Along with very similar compositions and depictions of a house, people, birds, flower pots and borders, both Mary and Hannah stitched the same verse: Bright angels strike your loudest strings / Your sweetest voices raise / Let heaven and all created things / Sound our Emmannuels Praise.
The Kendall family is well documented in the book, The Kendall Family in America, by William Montgomery Clemens (Hackensack, NJ, 1919). The immigrant ancestor was Mary’s great-great-great grandfather, Francis (Miles) Kendall (c.1620-1708), who journeyed to the colonies with brother, Thomas, around 1640. He settled first in Charlestown, but soon removed to Woburn where he served as a selectman and on many town committees for about 18 years. A miller by trade, he soon was the owner of a corn mill in Woburn. Kendall family legend relates that he left England against the wishes of his family using the assumed name of Miles rather than Kendall until he was well settled in Massachusetts. Francis was described as a man of “great respectability and influence”, and as such became the owner of a large amount of land in and around Woburn. With wife, Mary Tidd, he fathered at least 9 and possibly 12 children. He died in 1708 at the age of about 88.
Generations later Mary’s father, Joshua Kendall, was born in 1746 and worked initially as a shoemaker, traveling from house to house during the summer months. One of his stops brought him to the large estate farm of Josiah Shattuck, a prosperous farmer of West Cambridge. He stayed there during the winter months, working for Mr. Shattuck on his farm. During this time he became engaged to the Shattuck daughter, Susanna, and they married in the spring of 1770 when Susanna was only about 14 years of age. Joshua and Susanna lived on the Shattuck homestead, which was inherited by Susanna upon the death of her father. Consequently, Joshua became a very wealthy farmer and dairyman; supplying large quantities of milk to the Boston area. Our samplermaker, Mary, was born on November 16, 1799, the 4th of 10 children, all of whom were born in Cambridge. Susanna died in 1803 at 47, leaving the entire estate to Joshua. He died in 1818 at the age of 72. Both are buried in the Waltham Burying Ground. Mary remained single and died in 1849 at the age of 70.
The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in its fine, original gold leaf frame.