Sarah Ann Graffin

Sarah Ann Graffin

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, 1839

Undoubtedly one of the most important groups of Pennsylvania samplers was worked in Lehigh County in the 1830s by a handful of talented young schoolgirls. Their distinctive bold design and brilliant color place these extraordinary samplers within the finest of Pennsylvania German folk art. Betty Ring, in Vol. II of Girlhood Embroidery, describes these works (pages 460 – 461) as spectacular samplers and illustrates the nearly identical 1838 example by Sarah Ann Dreisenbach, which is in the collection of the Moravian Museum in Bethlehem.  Mrs. Ring makes reference to Sarah Ann Graffin’s sampler worked the following year and we feel privileged to offer this fine sampler.

The composition of these samplers is characterized by a large blue building set on a variegated lawn with sheep and two highly distinctive trees; some of the samplermakers included smaller houses nearby.  The extravagant, lush border with many blossoms and leaves is another distinctive feature of these samplers and both the Graffin and Dresienbach works share the same verse which counsels a youth tempered with piety and truth. These two samplers each also feature the same small baskets filled with flowers and strawberries.  All of the work was executed with a high level of skill indicating that both teacher and students were advanced needleworkers.

The History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania published in 1914 documents the Graffin family and informs us that Sarah Ann was the daughter of Thomas and Rachel (Smoyer) Graffin of Howertown and then Catasauqua in Lehigh County, the fourth of their thirteen children.  Her obituary, which appeared in Catasauqua newspaper, indicates that she died in 1911 in Wilmington, Delaware where she was living with a daughter and son-in-law.

Worked in silk and wool on linen, the sampler is in very good condition with slight weakness to the linen and an area that is unfinished in the lower border.  It has been conservation mounted into a cherry and maple cornerblock frame.