Anna Clymer, Philadelphia,

Anna Clymer, Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania, 1817

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sampler size: 22” x 21¾” • framed size: 26” x 26¼” • sold

This outstanding sampler is a rare example in that a compelling and fascinating family history matches its fine aesthetic and technical components. Signed, “Anna Clymer Work done by her in the eight of her age,” and dated 1817, the sampler closely resembles the excellent work that was produced by students attending the many fine Quaker schools of Philadelphia and nearby southern New Jersey in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The stately two-chimney house is set on a fenced lawn between pine trees and birds, the motifs and elements that fills the space are a comprehensive cataloging of those designed and taught by Quaker instructresses and the graceful vining side borders reflect the patterns developed in the fine Quaker schools of Burlington County, New Jersey. Anna was indeed only eight years old but her skill in the needle arts combined well with the direction of her talented schoolmistress, whose initials, “SS”, are stitched flanking the date and sitting atop the railing that connects the chimneys at the rooftop. While Anna doesn’t seem to have been Quaker, her teacher clearly was teaching in the Quaker style.

Family information that accompanied the sampler - in the form of an early, handwritten note (pictured) that provides the full names that connect to the many sets of family initials stitched by Anna - allowed for research that greatly expanded our knowledge of the Clymer family history. This family history has proven to be very interesting.

  (photo of family note)

Anna Dorothea Clymer was born on August 16, 1809 in Philadelphia, the daughter of Jacob and Rebecca (Schaffer) Clymer and the fifth of their eleven children. Jacob’s father was Robert Clymer and a great deal has been researched and written about him. His history is intertwined with a famous, early Philadelphian, Dr. Christopher Witt (1675-1765), a mystic and astrologer who was a leader of a group that called themselves the Hermits of the Wissahickon. He was also a highly regarded doctor and renowned clockmaker. In 1745, Dr. Witt purchased or acquired a young adult mulatto slave – Robert Clymer. Clymer (the name also appears as Clayman and Claymer) proved to be a quick student and became an important assistant to Dr. Witt as well as a clockmaker in his own right. Pennsylvania Clocks and Watches by James W. Gibbs (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1984), discusses Dr. Witt at length and Robert Claymen, his “mulatto slave” briefly, stating that Claymen was manumitted in his will and that Witt bequeathed to him all of his tools and instruments pertaining to the making of clocks, as well as a specific, important clock. Additionally, this newly freed man received a tract of land in Germantown, a house and its contents. This land is now part of that on which stands Germantown High School, as acknowledged by various historical societies and preservation alliances. Dr. Witt’s will is transcribed in a booklet entitled, Christopher Witt in America The Mystery of Robert Clymer, Mulatto Slave by Dorothy Pinkett (published by The Kelpius Society, 2010). Robert Clymer and his wife, Elizabeth, had several children and when he died in 1816, his son Jacob, father of our samplermaker, Anna, was one of his executors.

While it’s difficult to know if subsequent generations of Clymers identified as mulatto, we do know that one of Jacob’s brothers, Archibald, is listed in an 1811 Philadelphia City Directory Appendix as a “Person of Color.” He was a tailor working in the Southwark section of the city. Jacob and his wife, Rebecca, are listed in later census records as white. Anna remained single and died on November 20, 1889 and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. A photocopy of her will, designating specific amounts of money to family members, as well as a chamber chair and a gold watch and chain, in included in the substantial research file that accompanies the sampler.

The sampler retains much of its original color palette as seen from the photo of the back (below) and, importantly, its original, applied silk ribbon edging. It has been conservation mounted and is in a maple and cherry cornerblock frame.

  (photo of reverse of sampler)

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