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Memorial Sampler
Embroiderer:Embroidered by Martha Street , American, 1829 - 1926
Teacher:Taught by Mary Curtis Spencer , American, 1792 - 1871
Embroidery; silk thread on a plain-woven, undyed linen ground; glass and wood
Primary Dimensions (height x width of frame): 20 3/16 x 21 3/16in. (51.3 x 53.8cm) Primary Dimensions (height x width of visible ground): 16 7/8 x 17 7/8in. (42.9 x 45.4cm)
Credit Line: The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund
Gallery Copy: Martha Street’s memorial sampler combines two distinct needlework traditions: the conventions of sampler making and the vocabulary of more elite, academy-based silk-embroidered memorial pictures. The memorial vignette at center shows a fashionably dressed young woman, presumably Martha, standing by an obelisk dedicated to Martha’s late mother, sheltered by a willow tree. Conventional sampler components surround the scene. In contrast to the stylized, geometric pictorial motifs and flat, contrasting colors of most 1820s and 1830s samplers, Martha’s piece features more realistic designs and softer, subtler color variations achieved with denser stitching and printed patterns.
Description: Memorial sampler worked in medium greens, medium browns, medium blue, light blue, dark blues, dark green, cream, gray, pink and red silk threads on a plain-woven linen ground using cross stitches over one thread. The sampler is squarish, oriented horizontally. It is laid out with one row of one alphabet, over two inscriptions flanking a memorial scene encased in an oval, over an inscription, over a realistic townscape, over an inscription at the bottom. The first inscription is "They are like/ grass: - In the/ morning it flour-/ isheth and grow-/ est up: in the/ evening it is cut/ down and/ withererth". The second inscription is "But the mercy/ of the Lord is/ from everlasting/ to everlasting/ upon them that/ fear him and/ his righteousness/ unto children,s/ children". The third inscription is "There is a voice by sorrow heard/ When heaviest weighs life,s galling chain/ That voice is the Almighty,s word/ The pure in heart shall meet again". The fourth inscription is "Wrought by Martha Street at 12 years of age under the instruction of Mary C Street AD [one character] 1841". The realistic townscape scene includes, from left to right, a church, a tree, a house, a church, and a tree. The memorial scene includes, from left to right, a tree, a right-facing woman with her left hand touching a monument, and a tree, all atop a pastoral landscape. The inscription on the monument reads, "BETSEY/ wife of/ James Street/ died/ Aug. 29/ 1834". There are several pictorial motifs throughout the sampler, including a bird in flight, an angel, a peacock at rest, a butterfly or moth, and a bird sitting in a branch. There is a three-sided floral border at the top and both sides. The edges of the sampler are not visible. The sampler may have selvedges at its left and right edges. The sampler is in an old frame. Letters and Numbers: There is one alphabet plus six additional letters. The letters in the alphabet are uppercase script. The additional letters are in uppercase script: BCSSJO. Apostrophes are placed as commas. Stitches: The sampler is worked entirely in cross stitch over one thread. Condition: The sampler had darkened with age. It is in an old frame; the backing is replaced.
Historical Note: According to genealogical research completed by Judy Johnson, staff genealogist at the Connecticut Historical Society, Martha Street (1829-1926) was the daughter of James Street (1791-1871) and Betsey Scott (1787-1834). One year after Betsey Scott died, James Street married his second wife, Mary Curtis Spencer (1792-1871). James Street's second wife, Mary C. Street, is most likely the teacher named on this memorial sampler. (Johnson 4/21/2006) Historical Note: According to John Warner Barber's Connecticut Historical Collections, there were two churches in Prospect in the 1830s - one Congregational and one Methodist. It is possible that these are the churches depicted in the sampler. Additionally, Nancy Finlay located John Warner Barber views of nearby Cheshire that contain elements very similar to those in this memorial sampler. (Hunt 4/21/2006)
Inscription: The back of the frame has a hand-written inscription of "East Haven" in the upper right corner.
Object Number: 2006.74.1
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