Mary Howel, Southampton,

Mary Howel, Southampton,

Suffolk County, New York, 1804

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sampler size: 13½” x 10½” • framed size: 16¼” x 13¼” • sold

Samplers made in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York are decidedly hard to find and we are delighted with this praiseworthy example. Signed, “Wrought by Miss Mary Howel in the 12th year of her Age Southampton Sep. AD 1804,” it is accompanied by a family note that indicates that she married Isaac P. Foster of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The composition of the sampler is very pleasing and the needlework throughout is excellent. Notable is the solidly stitched panel along the bottom of the sampler – the year is centered between squares of queen’s-stitched motifs that show the strong influence of 18th century needlework. The quotation in the center register: “Each pleasing art lends softness to our minds / And with our studies are our lives refin’d,” is unusual and particularly apt. This appeared in Letters to a Young Lady on a Variety of Useful and interesting Subjects Calculated to Improve the Heart, to Form the Manners and Enlighten the Understanding written by Rev. John Bennett and published in Dublin, Ireland in 1791.

Both Mary and Isaac were born to families with deep roots in this historic area of Long Island - Mary in Southampton in 1793 and Isaac in Quogue in 1788. As adults they lived in upstate Pennsylvania and the Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania Including the Counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and Many of the Early Settled Families (J. H Beers & Co, Chicago, 1900) publishes much about the family’s history. In 1810, Isaac removed to Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania and founded a mercantile business there. His marriage to Mary Howel occurred in 1812 in Southampton, after he briefly returned to Long Island. The couple settled in Montrose, Pennsylvania where Isaac attained substantial financial success and was a civic leader serving in various roles. Seeing greater opportunity in nearby Wayne County, the family removed to the fledgling village of Honesdale and Isaac became a business and civic leader there, as well. Notably, he was also an abolitionist and the above book states, “he was one of the brave men who dared to violate the unjust laws, and in the hours of night he often fed the fleeing slave and helped him on his way to Canada, his house being a noted station on what is now the historic ‘Underground Railroad.’“

The family prospered in Wayne County, and Mary and Isaac had 16 children who were born between 1813 and 1839. One of their children, William Howell Foster (1816-1880), spent his life in Honesdale and the house that he built in 1869, an important example of period architecture, is now owned by the Wayne County Public Library.

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a mahogany frame. 

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