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

NH sampler by Bowker from Huber

Melancia Bowker
Antique Needlework Sampler
Fitzwilliam, NH dated 1817

A paper-faced girl holding a bouquet stands in a disproportionate landscape with paper sheep and a lavishly embroidered floral border on this large sampler stitched by Melancia Bowker in 1817. One of a small group of samplers from the area they are easily identified by the central landscape scene of girl with nosegay next to a large basket of flowers outlined with a saw-tooth border.

Melancia (1803-1875) was the sixth child of eight born to Charles Bowker (1757-1839) and Beulah Stone (1767-1836) of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The Bowker girls, Betsy born in 1793, Melancia in 1803, Laura in 1805, and Chestina in 1808 all have an affiliation with samplers from the area. Betsy and Chestina are known to have taught needlework (see Jael Whitcomb's memorial figure worked under the tuition of Chestina), and Laura Bowker made a sampler similar to Melancia's, also in 1817. Possibly these were made under the direction of their older sister Betsy.

Melancia was fortunate to study with Mary Lyon (founder of Mount Holyoke College) when she taught at Ipswich Female Seminary. Melancia taught in the common schools of her neighborhood until her marriage to Dr. George Newell, an invalid of Petersham, Massachusetts in 1831, he died three months later. She then became preceptress at Monson Academy in Massachusetts and in 1834 married Rev. John Storrs. They eventually moved to Winchendon, Massachusetts where he ministered at the first Congregational Church. In 1854 Melancia was widowed and left with little money and five children under the age of sixteen (two others died in infancy). An educated woman she was determined to do the same for her children and all five graduated from college.

How blest the maid who circling years improve/ Her god the object of her purest love/ Whose youthful hours successive as they glide/ The book the needle and the pen divide/ Melancia Bowker Age 13.

Silk, chenille, and paper on linen; 17" x 21 7/8" sight. 21 ¼" x 26 1/8" framed.

Illustrated in the exhibition and book With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery From the Connecticut River Valley by Carol and Stephen Huber.


(860) 388-6809


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