Mary Smith, Philadelphia,

Mary Smith, Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania, 1790

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sampler size: 17½” x 13¾” • frame size: 19¾” x 16” • price: $18,000

Some of the most extraordinary American schoolgirl samplers were worked in Philadelphia in the 18th century, where instructresses continued the excellent teachings and applied the very high standards that they had brought from England. Features such as the band format and the inscriptions that alternate with rows of stylized flowers, and little trees inserted as line end motifs can be found on many praiseworthy samplers from Philadelphia. Another, more unusual, characteristic also indicates the origins of samplers from this region – an enduring pattern, which seems to have been in use in Philadelphia as early as the 1730s and was continued for almost a century - that of working the first letter of each word in the upper case.

This outstanding sampler was worked by Mary Smith in 1790 and it exhibits excellent needlework throughout; it is a fine example that closely resembles others made in the classic Philadelphia style. The inscription reads, “Mary Smiths Work Done In Her 12 Year DSC 13 1790.” She seems to have used “DSC” as her own abbreviation for December.

Mary’s inscriptions include some of those often used by 18th century samplermakers: “The Lord Is Only My Support And he / That Doth Me Feed How Can I Then / Want Any Thing Whereof I Stand In Need” and “Lord Give Me Wisdom To Direct My / Ways I Beg Not Riches Nor the Length of Days” and “This Work In Hand My Friends May / Have When I Am Dead And Lay In Grave” and “Beauty Like A Flower Faideth In An Our”

The sampler was worked in silk on linen gauze and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted in an excellent 18th century deep red painted frame. 

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