The daughter of a highly prominent citizen of Maine, Rebecca Killeran was born in Cushing, a coastal town, south of Rockland. Her father was Honorable Edward Killeran (1751-1828) and her mother Elizabeth (Burton) Killeran (1753-1831), also of an illustrious family from this area of mid-coast Maine. Rebecca was the fourth of their eleven children, born on June 10, 1781. Edward Killeran was a first lieutenant in the Revolutionary War, a teacher, surveyor and sea captain who served in many important roles within the local and state government. Many published sources include a great deal of information about Edward Killeran and his family. He was a member of the convention that framed the constitution of Maine and he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, as Maine was then a part of the state of Massachusetts.
The Killeran family would have lived much of their time in Boston and Rebecca attended school there, accordingly. She worked this large, handsome sampler at a Boston school; it features alphabets, verse and inscription grounded on a bottom border of a lawn with flowering plants and is surrounded on three sides with a splendid border of a delicate, flowering vine with a great assortment of blossoms. The color palette of Rebecca’s sampler is especially appealing.
The verse featured centrally by Rebecca is entitled “The Rural Scen[e]” and was also used with precisely the same title on a sampler made in 1802 in Lexington, Massachusetts (page 463, Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth Century American Children’s Poetry, John Hopkins Press, 2014). Flanking this verse are fine sprigs of flowering branches and two flying insects.
While in Boston, the Killeran family furnished their home with furniture made by important cabinetmakers of the period, some of which descended in the family for two centuries and has been documented as such. Rebecca didn’t marry and died young, at age 23, in 1804. She is buried in the Old Meeting House Cemetery in Cushing, Maine, along with her parents and other family members.
Important to the provenance of this sampler is the fact that it was in the collection of Theodore H. Kapnek, one of the most important American sampler collectors of the second half of the 20th century. His samplers were exhibited at the Museum of American Folk Art in 1978 and published in A Gallery of American Samplers: The Theodore H. Kapnek Collection by Glee Krueger (Dutton, 1978); Rebecca Killeran’s sampler is figure 38.
Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into a molded and black painted frame.