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Stephen & Carol Huber: 17th - 19th Century Needlework

antique needlework sampler Huber 274

Lot Number: 274 (description taken from Sotheby's catalogue)

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 buyers premium)

(To purchase call 860-388-6809)

Catalogue Note
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), 311.

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

(860) 388-6809


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