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Rare Needlework Sampler, Martha Mulford (1796-1868), New Carlisle, Clark County, Ohio, Dated 1824
Estimate
15,00025,000
LOT SOLD. 68,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
305
Rare Needlework Sampler, Martha Mulford (1796-1868), New Carlisle, Clark County, Ohio, Dated 1824
Estimate
15,00025,000
LOT SOLD. 68,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Americana: Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Porcelain, Prints and Carpets including property sold by the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Rare Needlework Sampler, Martha Mulford (1796-1868), New Carlisle, Clark County, Ohio, Dated 1824
Worked in silk threads on linen in tent, outline, flame, queen, couched, satin and cross-stitches. Inscribed: Martha Mulford was born june first 1796 Ohio/1824 Schoolmistress: Martha Meek Mulford. Some discoloration and fading. 17 1/2  by 18 inches. (26 threads to the inch).

See catalogue note at sothebys.com
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Provenance

A sale at Sotheby's, October 26, 1985, sale number 5376, lot 1

Catalogue Note

Exhibition and Literature: LACMA, pp. 146-148, fig. 69

Unlike most samplers that represent schoolgirl embroideries, this rare, flawlessly stitched example was unquestionably worked as a model for use in schoolroom instruction. Its creator, Martha Mulford, was twenty-eight years old, married, and, as we learn from her handmade, carefully preserved arithmetic workbook, an intelligent and accomplished Ohio schoolmistress.1 Martha's unblemished, beautifully designed sampler is shown in its true, original colors. Never intended for framing or display, untouched by harmful rays of sunlight, this sampler was destined to be copied by her students. Quite remarkably, there is no permanent crease marring the linen, evidence that Martha's embroidery has been kept in flat, unfolded condition for over 150 years. Clearly, Martha Mulford was herself knowledgeable in the intricacies of sampler making, for this handsomely bordered example reflects the influence of childhood needlework instruction. Scattered across the linen are the paired birds, miniature floral designs, and a delicate, sprightly wreath-all traditional and readily recognizable Quaker motifs. Dominating the pictorial format are large, fluffy carnation sprigs, worked in mirror image, which appear to have their origin in the smaller flowers of similar shape favored by Quaker schoolmistresses working in the vicinity of the Delaware River Valley, such as those decorating the sampler worked by Abigail Passmore Yarnall (fig. 58).2 The brick red, five-bay house, with its ornamental fencing, ribbed gates, and green-shaded lawn adorned with sheep and birds, indicates the influence of needlework accomplished in schools for girls in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.3 Related samplers of similar style are those worked by Elizabeth Stine, 1793(fig. 13), and Sarah Elwell, 1826 (fig. 57), both of Philadelphia, and Hannah Steelman of New Jersey, 1834 (fig. 61). Hannah's three-sided border makes use of queen-stitched strawberries, as does Martha's sampler. Martha Mulford's sampler motifs chronicle the migration of sampler motifs from specific regions in the east to western parts of the new United States. Across overland trails and up the Ohio River, traditional embroidery patterns, along with other goods and services, were carried directly into the middle-western region of the country. In order to compete with the latest fashions, village schoolmistresses quickly adapted the patterns for schoolgirl needlework, just as they had in other sections of the country decades before. Recent research confirms that Quaker schools were established in Ohio as early as 1803.4 Clues of this nature allow us to speculate that either young Martha Meek attended a boarding school near Philadelphia, or that the Ohio schoolmistress who taught her embroidery, possibly a Quaker, may have once lived in that vicinity. Martha Meek was born June 1, 1796, in North Bend, a river town in Hamilton County, Ohio.5 She was one of two daughters born to John and Euphemi Meek or Meeks.6 In 1830, the Meek family sold property in Clark County, Ohio, where they may have made their home.7 There is, unfortunately, no record of Martha's marriage to Mulford.8 It was, however, in the vicinity of New Carlisle that Martha Meek Mulford worked her sampler, kept a school for girls, and, on April 17, 1827, married David J. Cory.9 David's sister, Melissa Cory, born in Honey Creek, worked a modest alphabet sampler in 1825 when she was ten. It is possible Melissa worked her sampler under the instruction of schoolmistress Martha Mulford, for Honey Creek runs through New Carlisle, near Springfield. While the two embroideries have little in common, both samplers include the date of birth of the sampler maker, an infrequently stitched inscription. 10 David Cory (b. 1801) was a very prominent judge, farmer, and dealer in real estate. After their marriage, Martha and David lived in Williams County, now part of Henry County, in Findlay Township where he owned some twenty-three hundred acres of land spreading across two counties. Cory was a "leading spirit in the projection, location and building of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad" and a member of the Methodist Church. In 1850, his real estate was valued at the enormous sum of sixty-two thousand dollars. 11 Martha Meek Mulford Cory died on February 26, 1868, without issue. 12 

 

1. Martha Mulford's workbook is in my collection. 

2. Ring, "Samplers and Pictorial Needlework," 1425-1427. 

3. Ring, American Needlework Treasures, 38. 

4. Studebaker, Ohio Samplers, 5, 6. 

5. Death Records, Hancock County, Ohio, 1868, no. 86. 

6. Martha Cory and her sister, Cynthia Edwards, were named in their father's will, presented for probate on June 8, 1833, Court of Clark County, Ohio. 

7. Deed Book, Clark County G: 381, 382. 

8. Marsh Mulford and Richard Mulford are recorded in Federal Census, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1817, and Voters'Lists, Hamilton County, Ohio, 1798 and 1799 (Cincinnati, OH: 1960),49. 

9. A History of Hancock County, Ohio ( Chicago, IL: Warner, Beers and Co., 1886),737. See also Early Marriage Bonds of Ohio (Marriage Records, Clark County, 1818-1865), copied by the Daughters of the American Revolution, compiled under the direction of Mrs. Stuart R. Bolin and Mrs. John S. Heaume, 161. 

10. This sampler was brought to my attention by Gloria Allen, former director of the Museum of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C., to whom I am indebted. Documentation accompanying the sampler verifies that Melissa and David Cory were brother and sister. See also History of Clark County, Ohio (Chicago, IL: Warner, Beers and Co., 1881), 706. 

11. D. B. Beardsley, History of Hancock County, Ohio, (Chicago, IL: Warner, Beers and Co., 1881): 311, 312. See also Census Records, Findlay Township, Ohio, 1850. On a single page of paper, Martha Cory recorded their journey from Dayton, Ohio, to the Maumee and Lake Erie. With a team of horses, they followed Hull's Trail. "We were fifteen days on the road--or in the woods-for there was barely a road on the entire route," she wrote. Today it spans a distance of approximately eighty miles. 

12. Beardsley, History of Hancock County, 737. See also Death Records, Hancock County, Ohio, 1868, no. 86.   

Important Americana: Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Porcelain, Prints and Carpets including property sold by the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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New York