Harriet B. Smith, Quaker,

Harriet B. Smith, Quaker,

Pennsylvania, 1808

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sampler size: 21¼” x 12½” • framed size: 23½” x 15¾” • sold

Quaker teachers and schools of the Delaware Valley, beginning with the Westtown School established in 1799 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, were the source of excellence in samplermaking and needlework design for many decades. A variety of specific motifs were passed on from teacher to student and appear with great repetition – a branch with a rose blossom, sprigs of carnations and lilies, a bunch of pinks, buds on vine, and, most appealingly, paired doves under a stylized branch with a bellflower. And overall attributes such as fine needlework and careful and balanced composition add to the aesthetic appeal of these samplers. Many young women who attended Westtown went on to teach elsewhere in southeastern Pennsylvania or southern New Jersey.

Harriet B. Smith’s handsome and very well made sampler displays many of the precise Quaker characteristics in an appealing composition. Her inscription is just below the pair of doves facing a bellflower, a precise duplicate of that used on a Westtown School sampler made in 1803 and in the collection of the Chester County History Society (published as Figure 314 in Betty Ring’s Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650-1850 in the section entitled “Quaker Samplers in America”). Interestingly, the surround used for the inscription and paired bird motif is another classic Quaker motif: a half geometric medallion, beautifully rendered with a saw-tooth edging.

The verse used by Harriet is from a hymn entitled “The Happy Effects of Love to God,” and this same one was often used by the Quakers in the nineteenth century.

Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition, retaining much of its original color as evidenced by a photo taken of the reverse. It has been conservation mounted and is in a molded and black painted frame. 

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