Margaret Laskey, school of Mary Zeller

Margaret Laskey, school of Mary Zeller

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1795

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sampler size: 21¾” x 16¾” • framed size: 25½” x 20½” • sold

A small, highly significant group of pictorial samplers was worked at the school of Mary Zeller in Philadelphia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These samplers were worked on a large scale and feature excellent composition and needlework; Betty Ring in Girlhood Embroidery , vol. II describes these samplers as “easily recognized by airy, asymmetrical motifs that float in random arrangement above her balanced terraces and lend a feeling of ebullient spontaneity to her compositions. Her tree-lined stepped terraces are usually surmounted by … a black and orange castle.” Mrs. Ring further indicates that other pictorial images found on these samplers may include the shaggy goat, milk cow, well house, reclining stag, small shepherd couple and various sheep, dogs, birds and butterflies. The 18th century Zeller school samplers may include a beautifully work horizontal band of flowers in a deep arcade, reminiscent of mid-18th century Philadelphia sampler design.

It is a privilege to offer this praiseworthy sampler, which is inscribed, “Margaret Laskey Her Work Made In The 10th Year Of Her Age 1795.” This is a recent discovery and an important addition to the group of Zeller school samplers and compares favorably to others made at this school, offering strong composition and color, as well as interesting family history.

Margaret Laskey was born in Philadelphia on April 24, 1785, the daughter of Edward Laskey (1747-1800), a victualler, and his wife Catherine (Koch, 1750-1810). The family lived on Mulberry Street and belonged to St. Michael’s and Zion Lutheran Church where their children were baptized. Edward served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Philadelphia Militia in the Revolutionary War and in 1777 his butcher business was noted in Pennsylvania Executive Council Minutes for a large payment for beef supplied to the Commissary of the Navy. By the 1780s and 90s, the business is listed in The Philadelphia Directory on North Alley, just off High (now Market) Street.

Margaret died, unmarried, at age 25 in1809 and is buried along with her parents in Old Saint Pauls Episcopal Church Cemetery. The family papers, copies of which are included in the substantial research file that accompanies the sampler, include the inventory of Margaret Laskey’s will, and indicate that she owned a valuable piano forte. The administration of her will includes payment to Dr. Wistar, a physician of considerable reputation in Philadelphia. This sampler was left to Margaret’s sister Rebecca Laskey Oldenbergh and descended along with Oldenbergh family papers.

Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition with very minor weakness at a horizontal fold line. It has been conservation mounted and is in a fine mahogany frame with inlay.

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