Mary Spence,

Mary Spence,

Boston, Massachusetts, 1829

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sampler size: 14½” x 17¼” • framed size: 17¼” x 19¾” • price: $3600

Large alphabets and lush flower blossoms dominate this lovely sampler which also includes a wonderful verse tightly stitched into the lower border. The inscription, “Mary Spence Agde 13 1829” appears in a fine oval enclosure in the upper border. The narrow blue and white sawtooth inner border and an interesting small-scale geometric border along the outer edge of the sampler contribute nicely to the composition. Notable also is the excellent and very carefully worked deep blue eyelet-stitched alphabet. The verse is a variation of a poem written by Anna Letitia Barbauld, renown poet, essayist and author, and it was first published in London in 1773. Overall, Mary’s sampler offers much to admire. 

Born in Ireland circa 1816, Mary Spence was the daughter of James and Mary Spence. The family, with 7 children in total, emigrated in 1825; their port of arrival was Newport, Rhode Island. Shortly afterwards they settled in Boston where Mary would have attended school and made this classically American sampler in 1829. Records from the Roman Catholic Church indicate that on July 23, 1836, Mary married Thomas Clifford, who was also born in Ireland. He established a painting business on Boylston Street. The 1850 census shows Mary, Thomas and 5 children living in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Mary died in 1852 and is buried in Boston. 

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a molded and black painted frame. 


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