Sally Edgar,

Sally Edgar,

Woodbridge, Middlesex County,
New Jersey, 1806

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sampler size: 17¼” x 13¾” • framed size: 20” x 16½” • sold

A praiseworthy accomplishment on many levels, this was made by Sally Edgars, a fourteen-year-old from Woodbridge, New Jersey. Using ivory silk floss, she signed it, “SALLY EDGARS WORK WOODBRI / DGE OCTOBER THE 22th 1806 AGED  14,” in very fine and delicate needlework just above the register that features the eagle. Interestingly, the working of this inscription must have part of the assignment of a specific technique, as can be concluded by an examination of the reverse of the sampler (image below). The silk floss was always pale ivory in color and much of the lettering is accomplished in an unusual manner, similar to that of the pattern darning of the excellent band of nine blocks above it. A richly worked square of zigzag Irish stitch completes that band.

The portrayal of the eagle is as depicted in the Great Seal of the United States with his wings outstretched and a shield for the body, clutching arrows and olive branches in his talons and beak. The verse, a classic one often used by schoolgirls for their samplers, seeks guidance, “while her Fingers on the Canvas move.” Sally’s needlework indicated mastery of an unusual style of lettering, and in the overall, wonderful talent with a needle and thread. Details such as the four radiating suns in the corners nicely add to the composition.

Sally (also known as Sarah, her proper given name) Edgar was born in 1791, the tenth of twelve children born to Thomas Edgar (1747-1812) and his wife, Elizabeth Knapp Edgar (1753-1820). The family lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey across from Staten Island, New York; this is where Thomas’ grandfather, Thomas Edgar (1681-1759) and his wife Janet Knox (1689-1767) settled after they married, following their emigration from Scotland in 1703. Indeed, a section of Woodbridge was called Edgar Hill after that branch of the family. Many published sources include information about the family, including a 1906 Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Book that indicates that Sally’s father was a Revolutionary patriot who was arrested in 1780 and imprisoned in the Sugar House in New York.

As reported by the New York Evening Post, Sally married David Harriot on October 28, 1824, in New York. He was the son of Ephraim and Mary Harriot, also of Woodbridge. Sally and David lived in New York for many years and had a son and two daughters. Sally died in 1840 and David in 1855; both are buried in First Presbyterian Churchyard in Woodbridge.

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted into a fine early 19th century gold leaf frame.  

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