Martha Trow

Martha Trow

of Andover, Massachusetts,
at a Charlestown Boarding School, 1815

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size of the needlework: 9½” x 10” • framed size: 13½” x 14” • sold

A fully worked little gem of a piece, this is a rare and extremely appealing needlework picture depicting a delightful girl and boy, their faces drawn with pen and ink on paper. The young couple is set off-center and portrayed holding an oversized berry on a branch, in a lush and shimmering forest of magically large leaves and fronds. A large oak tree with enormous leaves sits firmly in the center and a grove of evergreens grows in the background. Lustrous blue, beige and green silk floss was used to create such a wonderful effect.

Quite fortunately, the original backboard has remained with this and the period inscription provides excellent documentation. It reads, “Sampler wrought by Martha Trow at School in Charlestown, Mass.” 1815.”

The Trow family in Massachusetts began with George Trow who was born in England in 1665 and emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He settled in Beverly and married Sarah Conant there in 1686. One of their daughters was Martha Trow, born 1703, the namesake, no doubt, of our needleworker. The Trow family intermarried with many members of Massachusetts’s most prominent families throughout the 18th century. One branch removed from Beverly to Andover and our Martha Trow was born there on July 17, 1793, the daughter of Captain John Trow (1771-1854) and Martha (Swan) Trow (1771-1857). The family resided in Andover for years and then removed further north to Hopkinton, New Hampshire.

As the backboard indicates, Martha was educated in Charlestown. Research into this family revealed one particular source, American Series of Popular Biographies, New Hampshire Edition (New England Historical Publishing Company, 1902), that fortunately confirms this information. The biographical sketch of one of Martha’s sons, artist and author, Henry Walker Herrick, states about his mother that, “Martha Trow, who was born in Andover, Mass., July 17, 1793 … was educated at a boarding school in Charlestown, Mass. where she acquired, among other accomplishments, skill in the art of painting, for which she had much natural taste and ability.” Another area of her talents obviously lays in the needle arts as indicated by this picture, with its unusual composition and execution.

In 1816, Martha married Israel E. Herrick (1789-1861), a lumber dealer and merchant of Hopkinton. They lived in Manchester, New Hampshire and had six children, including the above-mentioned Henry W. Herrick, whose work continues to be recognized today. The Manchester Historical Association owns over 80 of his paintings.  Another son, William Francis Herrick, left New England to join the gold rush and remained in San Francisco throughout his life, a highly successful businessman with a strong interest in the arts. He painted and exhibited his work throughout his life and helped to establish the San Francisco School of Design in 1874.  Martha died in 1876 in Manchester. 

Worked in silk onto a linen ground, this is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a 19th-century gold leaf frame.

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