Rebeca Willbor,

Rebeca Willbor,

Newport, Rhode Island, 1773

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sampler size: 15½” x 10¾” • framed size: 17½” x 12¾” • sold

The outstanding samplers made in Rhode Island have been the subject of great interest to scholars, curators and collectors since the groundbreaking 1983 exhibition at The Rhode Island Historical Society, Let Virtue Be a Guide To Thee: Needlework in the Education of Rhode Island 1730 – 1830, along with the accompanying historic book by Betty Ring. These allowed for a true understanding of Rhode Island samplers and firmly established their importance in this field. We are delighted to offer the excellent and visually commanding sampler made by Rebeca Willbor in Newport, Rhode Island, completed on November 5, 1773.

Betty Ring had particular interest in Miss Mary Balch (1762-1831), the renowned teacher who was born and educated in Newport and went on to instruct girls in Providence. An article, written by Mrs. Ring and published in The Magazine Antiques, "Mary Balch's Newport Sampler," September 1983, tracks the samplers of Newport and illustrates Rebeca Willbor’s sampler on page 507. Mrs. Ring writes, "The style was fully developed by 1767... distinguished by a composition of horizontal bands containing pictorial motifs and inscriptions, with wide floral borders along the sides and a cartouche at the bottom containing the needleworker's name, birthdate, and the date of the sampler. There is generally at least one bird in the top border, or playful people with animals, and one of the horizontal bands, usually second from the top, contains naturalistic strawberries. The pictorial motifs almost invariably include richly dressed figures with friendly pets, oversize birds and insects.” Rebeca’s sampler clearly shares these important Newport characteristics and her composition is highly appealing.

Little Compton Families, compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour (Little Compton Historical Society, 1967) tells us much about this family, that has been in America since about 1630, and Rhode Island since 1654. Indeed, the headquarters of the Little Compton Historical Society is the Wilbor House, which was built in 1690, as a part of the Wilbor farmstead. Rebeca was the daughter of John Willbor (1738-1812) and Eleanor (Tripp) Willbor (1738-1802), who lived primarily in Little Compton, which is in Newport County and across the bay from the town of Newport. She was the eldest of their five children, born, as stitched on the sampler, on “Jenauary” 13, 1761. In October 1780, Rebeca married Samuel Eldred (1757-1836) and they lived in North Kingston, Rhode Island. Samuel served as a private in the Revolutionary War enlisting in several different regiments and fighting in the battles at Long Island, Harlem Heights, Trenton and Princeton. Rebeca and Samuel had 11 children who were born between 1781 and 1803, the year that she died.

The sampler was worked on silk on linen and is in very good condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a fine 18th century frame.

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