Phebe Toffey,

Phebe Toffey,

New Rochelle, Westchester County,
New York, 1800

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sampler size: 14½” x 11¾” • framed size: 17½” x 14¾” • sold

Phebe Toffey’s engaging sampler belongs to a fine group of samplers worked in and around New York City over a period of almost 50 years. In Girlhood Embroidery, Vol. II, Betty Ring refers to this group as the “Biblical Samplers of Colonial and Federal New York” and observes that the most enduring composition includes Adam and Eve dressed in skirts that best resemble tutus, with Eve’s arm upraised. The serpent is always wrapped around the tree trunk. Notably, while depictions of Adam and Eve are often found on these New York samplers, they are otherwise rarely found on American samplers.

Phebe combined her Adam and Eve with customary sampler designs such as a house, dogs and birds. The deeply arcaded border, another regional characteristic, is wonderfully decorated with an assortment of large-blossomed flowers, providing a handsome framework.

The inscription was worked in tan silk and reads, “Phebe Toffey Her Work July the 31 1800.” She was born on June 29, 1787 to George and Esther (Arnaud) Toffey who lived in New Rochelle, Westchester County. Interesting, Betty Ring writes that these New York Biblical samplers had a connection early on to the emigrant French population of New Rochelle and a local teacher likely continued this tradition.

The Toffey family in America began with Phebe’s grandfather, John Toffey (1705-1792), who emigrated from England and settled in Hempstead, New York. George was a farmer and census records show him and his family, including Phebe, living in New Rochelle. Phebe remained single but records indicate that she had a daughter, Mary Ann Toffey, who was born circa 1814. The father was Jonathan Badeau, also of New Rochelle. Phebe died in 1852 and is buried in Trinity Episcopal Church Graveyard along with family members.

Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition, it has been conservation mounted into a beveled cherry frame.


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