Harriet F. Hayden,

Harriet F. Hayden,

Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, 1817

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sampler size: 15½” x 16¼” • framed size: 20” x 20¾” • sold

An outstanding sampler with enormous visual appeal, this is one of several known pieces that form a small, highly significant group considered to rank highly within the finest of New Hampshire folk art. The samplers were made in the town of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, located at the border with Massachusetts, between 1817 and 1821. Betty Ring, writing in Girlhood Embroidery, Vol. I (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1993) calls this group, “the state’s most appealing pictorial samplers” and noting the “paper-faced ladies in elegant pastures surrounded by luxuriant floral borders.” The most highly developed of these samplers also include sheep made of pin-pricked paper, delicate metallic elements stitched onto the lady’s gown and a splendid central pot of flowers. While the identity of the schoolteacher remains unknown, it is very clear that she was a highly talented needleworker.

Harriet’s sampler closely resembles that made by Betsey Fay in 1818 and published as figure 281 in Girlhood Embroidery. Notable on the Fay and the Hayden samplers are the excellent faces, hair and stylish hats, all delicately painted in watercolor on paper. The use of a combination of chenille and crinkled silk floss serves the samplers well. In each case, a small-scale, tightly worked sawtooth border frames the pictorial scene with a particular refinement leading to the lush, organic, flowering vine of the outer border. Three samplers from this group, Miss Hayden’s included, present the same, appealing verse that celebrates youthful hours spent divided between the book, the needle and the pen.

Born on June 25, 1804, Harriet Flint Hayden was the oldest of seven children born to Joel Hayden (1780-1856) and Rebecca (Tower) Hayden (1784-1855), residents of Fitzwilliam. Joel Hayden operated a tannery for many years and was Town Selectman from 1820 to 1823. Information about the family is published in The History of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire 1752 to 1887 by Joel Whittemore (Burr Printing House, 1888).

Harriet married John Perkins (1800-1832) whose grandfather, Joseph Perkins (1744-1821) served as a Minute Man at the Lexington Alarm. Harriet and John had one child, a daughter Helen Rebekah Perkins, who was born in 1832. Harriet died on February 8, 1853. Another sampler that Harriet made when she was eight years old in 1812, a much simpler piece, was listed in the seminal book, American Samplers by Bolton and Coe, published in 1921.

The sampler was worked in silk and metallic coils, and watercolor on paper, on fine linen gauze. It is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into a mahogany frame with a gold leaf outer bead.


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