Sarah Ann Graffin,

Sarah Ann Graffin,

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, 1839

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sampler size: 17¼” x 18” • framed size: 21” x 21¾” • price: $26,000

Undoubtedly one of the most important groups of Pennsylvania samplers was made by a handful of talented young schoolgirls working in Lehigh County in the late 1830s through 1840. Their distinctive bold design and brilliant color place these extraordinary samplers within the finest of Pennsylvania German folk art. Betty Ring, in Vol. II of Girlhood Embroidery, describes these works on pages 460 and 461 as spectacular samplers and illustrates the 1838 example by Sarah Ann Dreisbach, which is in the collection of the Moravian Museum in Bethlehem. Mrs. Ring refers to the nearly identical sampler, as well, made by Sarah Ann Graffin the following year, and we are delighted to now offer Miss Graffin’s outstanding needlework.

The composition of these samplers is characterized by a large blue building, possibly a church or meetinghouse, set on a variegated lawn with sheep and two highly distinctive trees; some of the samplermakers included smaller houses nearby. The extravagant, lush border with many blossoms and leaves is another distinctive feature of these samplers and both the Graffin and Dreisbach works share the same verse which counsels a youth tempered with piety and truth. These two samplers each also feature the same small baskets filled with flowers and strawberries. All the needlework was executed with a high level of skill indicating that in each case both teacher and student were advanced needleworkers.

The History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania, published in 1914, documents the Graffin family and informs us that Sarah Ann was born in 1826, the daughter of Thomas and Rachel (Smoyer) Graffin and the fourth of their thirteen children. They lived in Howertown and then Catasauqua, Lehigh County. Sarah remained single and worked as a dressmaker, according to the 1870 census. She died in 1911 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery, West Catasauqua.

Worked in silk and wool on linen, the sampler is in very good condition with some very minor weakness to the linen and a very small area that is unfinished in the lower border. It has been conservation mounted into a cherry and maple corner block frame.

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