Dorcas Estep

Dorcas Estep

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1832

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sampler size: 12¼” x 10¼” • framed size: 15½” x 13½” • sold

An excellent and rare sampler, this is signed, “Dorcas Estep Aged 9 Years Pittsburgh 1832.” A large central depiction entitled Flower Girl dominates the sampler; it features a sweet young girl in a bonnet holding a flower basket and set in a verdant garden. Red flower blossoms are echoed by red budding flowers that form a rhythmic border surrounding the composition.

Dorcas’ sampler appears strikingly similar to Elizabeth Witty’s 1842 Pittsburgh sampler; these two girls would been taught by the same schoolteacher. The Witty sampler is in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and was included in “Made in America: A Folk Art Tradition", an exhibition at the The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 2007.

Dorcas was born in 1823 to Catherine (Mefford) Estep (b. 1790) and James Estep (1782-1861), the fifth of at least six children. James was born southwest of Pittsburgh in Ohio Co., West Virginia, and removed to nearby Washington Co., Pennsylvania to marry his first wife Rachel Dunn in 1803; after she died in 1808, it seems that James returned to his hometown where he married Catherine Mefford. They removed east to Westmoreland Co., Pennsylvania which is southeast of Pittsburgh according to the birth records of their children. James was a doctor and by the late 1830s, a Baptist clergyman in Union, Washington Co., Pennsylvania.

In 1851, Dorcas married John Evans Dean and after his death, Philip Schneider Taylor as his second wife in 1869. It is unknown if she had any children. She died in 1902 and is buried in Brookville Cemetery, Jefferson Co., Pennsylvania, a town 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Dorcas’ grandfather Robert Estep (1749-1832) was born in Maryland. He served in the Revolutionary War in the West Moreland Militia and had twelve children with his wife Dorcas (Wells) Estep. According to published records, he removed to Washington Co., Pennsylvania and became a prominent citizen of Lawrenceville, just south of Pittsburgh - appointed to a position by the governor. Our samplermaker was named for his wife, her grandmother, Dorcas Estep.

The sampler was worked in silk and wool on linen with an appliqued and painted fabric for the much of the depiction of the Flower Girl, an unusual technique. It is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into a 19th century frame.

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