Mary Tilton, Burlington County,

Mary Tilton, Burlington County,

New Jersey, 1814

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sampler size: 18” x 16½” • framed size: 21½” x 20” • price: $4800

Mary Tilton, a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl from Burlington County, New Jersey, worked this handsome sampler which features a balanced composition and an excellent assortment of Quaker motifs – rose sprigs, blue striped urns of fruit, paired birds and fat acorns as part of arrangements in two-handled urns. A variety of alphabets were stitched as well, notably one in the eyelet-stitch. Mary also demonstrated her expertise by including four fat strawberries worked in the queen’s-stitch.

Mary also stitched the initials of her parents, AT and ET and this enabled us to identify and research the family. They were Quakers, Abraham Tilton (1759/60 – 1836) and Elizabeth (Rogers) Tilton, who married in 1781 and were members of the Chesterfield Monthly Meeting of Burlington County. Mary was born on July 31, 1799, the ninth of their eleven children. She would have learned to stitch her sampler under the instruction of one of the many fine teachers in that area in the early 19th century. Typically, these teachers were young women who had been students at Westtown School in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a Friends boarding school, where these specific and appealing sampler patterns and motifs were developed and taught.

Mary’s ancestors in America began with John Tilton (1612/23-1688) and Mary Pearsall (1620 – 1683). They emigrated to the colonies between 1630 and 1640, settling initially in Massachusetts and then moving to Long Island, New York in 1642. Their sons, John Jr. and Peter, removed further to New Jersey where the family owned large tracts of land.

Abraham Tilton (1759/60-1836), Mary’s father, served as a private in the Revolutionary War as a young man. He was the only son and youngest child of Abraham Sr. and Elizabeth (Thorn) Tilton. Records show that the Quaker church dismissed him in 1781, likely because of his military service, but he rejoined the church ten years later. History of the Tilton Family in America, by Francis Theodore Tilton (Madison, WI, 1927) publishes much more information about this family. Additionally, an extensive file of genealogical research accompanies this sampler.

In 1831, Mary married a farmer, Samuel Steward, son of Thomas and Mary (Allen) Steward, a young man who was also from an early New Jersey family. They had at least four children, as evidenced in later census records: Susan, Benjamin Franklin, Mary and Emily and lived in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. Samuel died in 1861 and Mary in 1867. Their descendants remained in Mercer and Burlington Counties for some generations. 

Worked in linen on linen, this sampler is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a fine mahogany frame with an outer bead.

Provenance: Collection of Dan and Marty Campanelli

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