Elizabeth Crowninshield,

Elizabeth Crowninshield,

Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, 1805

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sampler size: 16” x 17½” • framed size: 18½” x 20” • sold

We’re delighted to offer this important and aesthetically pleasing sampler, made in Salem, Massachusetts and signed, “Elizabeth Crowninshield Born September 19 1794 AE 11 Years.” It presents a richly worked and appealing pictorial scene on a lawn of long green grass - a gentleman with his striped dog and a small flock of sheep, large birds soaring above, and, on the other side of a fruit tree, a tall lady wearing a dress with an abstract sweep to it, along with enormous butterflies and two flower baskets. Notable details include the articulated hands of both figures, her tiny feet, his deep blue coat and black hat.

The verse reads:

            Next unto God dear parents I address

            Myself unto you in humble thankfulness

            For all your care and charge on me bestow’d

            The means of learning until me allowed

As she stitched on her sampler, Elizabeth Crowninshield was born on September 19, 1794. Her parents, Benjamin Varnum Crowninshield (1757-1836) and Mary (Lambert) Crowninshield (1760-1851), were married in Salem on November 9, 1780. Elizabeth was the fourth of their twelve children, according to Salem birth records. On November 27, 1836, our samplermaker, Elizabeth, married Captain James Armstrong (1794-1868), the widower of her younger sister, Hannah, a noted artist in Salem. James Armstrong was a United States Naval Officer who rose to Commodore and is mentioned in many Naval histories and records. Elizabeth died in 1870 at age 75 and is buried along with many family members in historic Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem.

The Crowninshield family descended from Johann Kaspar Richter von Kroninschielt (1644-1711), originally from Denmark then Germany, who appears in records in New England in the summer of 1694. After arriving in Boston, likely from Leipzig, he settled in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Elizabeth. His son, Captain John Crowninshield (1696-1761) was a “well-known master mariner” and he established the family which produced “prominent Salem merchants, members of Congress, and Secretaries of the Navy in the early days of the Republic,” according to The Family of Clifford Crowninshield of Salem, Mass. (New England Historical Genealogical Society, vol. 194). He also built the house that became known as the Crowninshield Bentley House in Salem, now a house museum that was gifted to the Peabody Essex Museum in the late 1950s. The house had served as home for four generations of the Crowninshield family, including Elizabeth, until 1832. Reverend William Bentley, the renowned Salem diarist, lodged there from 1791 to 1819.

Along with the early and notable history of the family, the Crowninshields were active in the arts and publishing in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Family members included the creator and editor of Vanity Fair magazine, an accomplished painter and architect and a noted stained-glass artist / instructor at the Museum of Fine Arts School. More recently, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, was executive editor of The Washington Post during the publication of the Pentagon Papers and is known for his pivotal role in the newspaper's coverage of the Watergate scandal.

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It retains its original coloration as seen in the photo of the back of the sampler below, taken before it was mounted.  It has been conservation mounted and is in a molded and black painted frame with a gold-leaf liner. 

Elizabeth Crownishield, image of the reverse of sampler




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