20 Reasons To Love Americana, Day 6

Today’s blog showcasing standout examples of Americana that will be offered at the Winter Antiques Show January 19–29 at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory looks at a schoolgirl sampler, a quintessential form of Americana.

Lovingly and painstakingly executed, heavily embellished, exquisitely designed, this Philadelphia silk on linen needlework sampler with its original ribbon is among the best examples to come out of Philadelphia’s D.H. Mundall Seminary, well known for educating young girls in the home arts.

Wrought by Louiza M. Sewall in 1836 when she was but 9 or 10 years old, the sampler is inscribed with her name and the year, as well as the name of the school where she learned needlework skills: D.H. Mundall’s Seminary, No-101 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia.

“It is extremely rare to find a needlework sampler that is inscribed with the school’s name and address. We were thrilled to receive this previously unknown American icon directly from the family,” said Stephen Huber.

The elaborate sampler features multiple alphabet rows as well as a lengthy scripture-based message, religious symbols, trees and figures, and a double border. This is one of many important American samplers and silk embroideries that dealers Stephen and Carol Huber, Old Saybrook, Conn., will feature in their booth at the show.

The sampler is very similar in theme to one wrought by a Victorine Delacroix in 1833 (also a student at Mundall’s), which was acquired by Henry Francis Du Pint and now is in Winterthur’s collection.

Deborah H. Mundall was known to have taught in New Castle, Del., for many years before she moved to Philadelphia. The earliest sampler known from her Philadelphia school is dated 1829. She was described as a “widow teacher” in 1837 and taught at the same location until 1842. She died in 1850.

Louiza Maria Sewall (b May 24, 1826) also inscribed her parents’ initials on her sampler in the upper corners: “JS” for John Barnard Sewall and “AS” for Abby Sewall.

The moral message on the sampler reads in two parts flanking the central design of a basket overflowing with white flowers (likely representing purity). The verse reads:

Own but one God and only him obey

Nor to dumb idols senseless homage pay

Thy Makers name pronounce with filial awe

And keep his Sabbath as a sacred law

Honour thy parents tis their natural due

And shed not blood for ever a crown in view

Shun sensual joys which soul and body stain

Nor dare to steal whateer thy wants or gain

Bear not false witness truth with firmness own

Nor covet whats thy neighbours right alone

Schoolgirl samplers were practical items and kept as a record of the girls’ mastery of sewing skills as they learned new stitches. Today, they are highly desirable among collectors and are charming artifacts from a bygone era.

For more information, www.antiquesamplers.com or 212-628-9760. Make sure to visit the dealer’s booth at the Winter Antiques Show to see this and other American samplers. For show information, www.winterantiquesshow.com or 212-987-0446.


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