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Mary Fisher, Dedham,

Massachusetts, 1787

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sampler size: 17" x 10¼” • framed size: 20¾” x 14" • price: $12,500

A faultlessly rendered sampler with a wonderful composition, this includes many beautifully stitched animals, birds, flowering plants and baskets; additionally, excellent bands and borders provide a handsome visual strength. It is signed, "Mary Fisher Her Sampler 1787" and several rows further down is the following, neatly ordered inscription, "Mary Fisher Born October th 19 1772 Nw Braintree." Indeed Mary was born in New Braintree, Massachusetts, which is west of Worcester; however, she was living in Dedham, south and east of Boston in 1787 when she worked this sampler. The quality of Mary’s work is consistent with the many outstanding samplers made in the last quarter of the 18th century in Boston and its nearby environs.

The Fisher Genealogy Record of the Descendants of Joshua, Anthony and Cornelius Fisher of Dedham, Mass., 1636-1640 (Massachusetts Publishing Company, 1898) provides much information about the family. Mary descended from the line of Anthony Fisher who arrived in America in 1637, and became one of the earliest settlers of Dedham, south and east of Boston. The family remained there as prominent citizens and patriots for generations. Mary’s father, Jonathan Fisher (1743-1777) removed about 50 miles west to New Braintree to marry Catherine Avery (b. 1746) in 1766 and they remained in central Massachusetts, becoming the parents of seven children. In 1775, Jonathan resigned his commission in the King’s army and by March of 1776 he was a lieutenant in the Massachusetts Militia. Sadly, he died of camp fever at Morristown, New Jersey on March 10, 1777, and the letter written by his companions in Washington’s army to inform his widow was cherished by the family for generations. After his death, Catherine Fisher moved back to Dedham with seven children under the age of nine, to live with her father.

On November 29, 1792, Mary married Job Howland (1764-1847). They removed to Conway, Massachusetts and their ten children were born between 1794 and 1817. Mary died in 1849 and her sampler remained in the family for at least three generations, as indicated by a family note that accompanied the sampler.

Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into a maple and cherry frame. 

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