Lot Number: 274 (description taken from Sotheby's catalogue)
RARE NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER, ELIZABETH DAY HALL (1772-1858), WALLINGFORD, CONNECTICUT, DATED 1791
Worked in silk threads on linen in chain, outline, tent and cross-stitches. Inscribed: Elizabeth Day Hall.
Some darkening of linen. 10 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches. (24 threads to the inch).
Sothby's estimate: $10,000 - $12,500 (with 25% buyer's premium added)
Sold (SPECIAL SALES PRICE - no
(To purchase call 860-388-6809)
As early as 1695, the town of Wallingford, Connecticut, authorized the school committee to employ a woman to teach
in the summertime. The first female teacher recorded in the area, she was expected to accommodate her students-both
boys and girls-in private quarters, for no funds had been set aside to build a school. Ironically, at a time when
little emphasis was placed on women's education, female teachers were being considered as qualified professionals,
even in this small colonial village edging on Long Island Sound.1 By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was
accepted that the duty of the private-school teacher was to teach girls "to behave, to ply the needle through
all the mysteries of hemming, overhand, stitching and darning, up to sampler."2 Students were expected to
learn the alphabet, read the Psalter, and be familiar with the spelling book.3 In 1791, when she was nineteen,
Elizabeth Day Hall worked this diminutive, unbordered sampler in an exceedingly uncommon style. Entirely embroidered
in tent stitches, the pictorial scene is placed at the top of the sampler. The charming miniature townscape includes
a splendid turquoise bird of enormous proportions and a beguiling variety of flowers. A deep red neoclassical curtain,
swagged with fringed cording, has been invitingly draped to reveal the charming tableau. Draperies such as these
were a popular addition to portraits painted during the Federal period. The naif format of Elizabeth's sampler,
while not characteristic of the lavishly stitched schoolgirl embroideries, such as that worked by Mary Ann Goodrich
(fig. 37), nevertheless exudes an engaging charm. Elizabeth may have attended an embroidery school in Wallingford
or been sent to a boarding school in New Haven, where schools for the daughters of the well-to-do were more plentiful.4
Elizabeth Day Hall, born March 14, 1772, was the second child born to Hezekiah Hall and Elizabeth Merriman. One
of nine children, only one a boy, she had sisters with the Puritan names of Content, Thankful, and Hopeful. 5 Between
the years 1791, when her sampler was worked, and 1797, when her first child was born, Elizabeth married Captain
David Merriman Cook, who was by trade a farmer, shoemaker, and frequently a member of the state legislature. Parents
to four children, they lived in a large house on a rise of land facing south on a country road near the old Pond
Hill in Wallingford. Elizabeth died on December 1, 1858, and is buried in the Center Street Cemetery.6 The original
wooden backboard on the sampler bears this faint handwritten inscription: "Worked by Miss Elizabeth Day Hall/in
1791- Aunt of J R Hitchcock."
1. Charles Henry Stanley Davis, History of Wallingford, Connecticut (Meriden, CT: published by the author, 1870),
2. Ibid., 317.
3. Ibid. Dilworth's Spelling Book had been well received in Wallingford and was much used in Connecticut from its
inception in 1743. He subsequently published the Schoolmaster's Assistant, a book on arithmetic.
4. Krueger, New England Samplers, 144, 145.
5. Donald Lines Jacobus. comp., Families of Ancient New Haven (Rome, NY: Clarence D. Smith, 1923), 449, 716. See
also Rev. David B. Hall, The Halls of New England (Albany, NY: published by the author, 1883), 110.
6. Jacobus, Families of Ancient New Haven, 449. See also Davis, History of Wallingford, 696. The location of the
house is marked on an early landownership map. Although the cemetery is crowded with members of the distinguished
Hall family, I was unable to find Elizabeth's gravesite.
Just Us on Court, Tuscon, Arizona, November, 1980
Exhibited and Literature: LACMA, p. 48, fig. 11
STEPHEN & CAROL HUBER
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