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Peggy Silver, Salem, Massachusetts, 1797

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sampler size: 21¾” x 20½” • framed size: 26¼” x 25” • sold

The use of long, lustrous silk stitches was favored by teachers in and around Boston, Massachusetts for many decades, and samplers that feature this work are among the most sought after of all American schoolgirl needlework. One small group, comprised of only four samplers, was made by girls from Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts during the late 18th and very early 19th centuries. They feature outstanding wide borders worked in the classic long, crinkled silk stitches framing large interiors of alphabets, verse and other lettering. It is our pleasure to offer this significant, newly discovered example, worked by Peggy Silver of Salem in 1797, an outstanding sampler boasting excellent composition and execution. The three other known samplers include one made by Betsey Daniels, dated 1800, that is now in the Danvers Historical Society (published in Girlhood Embroidery American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850 by Betty Ring, vol. I, figure 122), one worked by Peggy’s sister, Hannah, in 1801, currently in a private collection, and one made by Elizabeth Briggs in 1806 and in the Peabody Essex Museum (published in Painted with Threads: The Art of American Embroidery by Paula Bradstreet Richter, figure 28). Peggy’s sampler is the only 18th century one in this group. The similarities between these four samplers are interesting to note, as are the minor changes that developed over nine years.

Peggy (aka Margaret) Silver was born October 19, 1787, the eldest of five children of William and Jemima (Tewksbury) Silver of Salem. Her sister Hannah, who worked one of the closely related samplers, was born in 1791. In 1810, Peggy married Nathan Poor (1786-1842), of nearby Danvers, and they had seven children, born between 1810 and 1822. Nathan was from a local, early family whose ancestor, Daniel Poor, arrived on the ship, “Bevis” in 1638. Peggy died on November 18, 1824, at age 37.

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition with only a few lost stitches. It has been conservation mounted and is in a fine mahogany frame with a stepped outer bead. 

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