Samplers worked under the instruction of Mary R. Bellamy share many characteristics, the most salient and visually compelling of which is an outstanding checkerboard house flanked by two similarly patterned houses. Balance compositions of structured baskets of flowers, trees, hearts and birds further decorate the Bellamy school samplers. Up until now there were eight known samplers belonging to this highly regarded group; we are delighted to add the ninth, a newly discovered sampler, which also is one of the most graphic. Made by Mary Potter, it is dated June 24, 1828.
Much is known about the Mary R. Bellamy samplers and we are grateful to Diane Dotsko for her work and information that was published in Hail Specimen of Female Art! New Jersey Schoolgirl Needlework 1726-1860, the book that accompanied the Morven Museum’s excellent, recent exhibition. Mary Bellamy was born in 1772 in Philadelphia and by 1784, after the deaths of her mother and two siblings, she and her father, a schoolteacher, were living in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Miss Bellamy was herself teaching by 1810, likely in nearby Somerset County, and instructed the majority of her students to stitch her initials or her full name onto their samplers. Our samplermaker included the initials “MB” on either side of the houses on her outstanding sampler.
Mary Potter, born in 1816, was the daughter of Jonathan and Hannah (Woolverton) Potter of Lamington, Somerset County, New Jersey. Mary’s ancestors in America began with Samuel and Hannah Potter who settled in Newark, NJ in 1678, on a 60 acre tract of land. In 1720 he served on the town committee for the town of Elizabeth, and was justice of the peace and one of the first elders of the Connecticut Farms Church of New Jersey (now Union) founded in 1730.
Four generations later, Mary’s father, Jonathan was born in 1771. He became active in the state militia, rising to colonel. Jonathan and Hannah had eight children, the samplermaker, Mary was their youngest. She married a farmer, David Dunham (1804-1893), and they had five children. The Potter and Dunham families were close - David’s brother, Benjamin, married Mary’s sister, Thankful. Mary died in 1875 and is buried in Lamington Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
The sampler was worked in silk and linen on linen and is in excellent condition; it has been conservation mounted into a cherry and maple corner-block frame.