936 Pine Street Philadelphia, PA 19107 215.627.7797
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$ 5,800

Sampler by Sarah Smithers, Milford Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, 1838

Origin United States, Delaware
Period 19th Century
Materials Silk and linen
W. 23.75 in; H. 22.5 in;
W. 60.33 cm; H. 57.15 cm;
Condition Excellent. One area of loss to the linen. It has been conservation mounted and is in its fine original mahogany frame.
Creation Date 1838
Description sampler size: 16½” x 17¾” • framed size: 22½” x 23¾” • price: $5800

Sarah Smithers stitched her colorful family record sampler "in the 9 year of her age," or when she was eight years old. She was born on February 17, 1830, as noted on the sampler, and she also included the year that she stitched her sampler, 1838.

Sarah stitched her parents' birthdates and wedding date at the top of her list of family members and then added her name and those of her siblings, along with birthdates. She or another individual added the death dates for her father and two siblings, her older sister Ruth Ann, who was born November 25, 1825, and died about six months later, on May 22, 1826, and her youngest sister, Emeline, who was born October 8, 1840, and died on August 16, 1850, at age nine. An unknown individual later added Sarah's death date, January 13, 1855.

The sampler includes elements often found on Quaker samplers, though the Smithers family did not belong to the Society of Friends. The floral motifs at the bottom of the sampler and the hanging bellflower at the top are often seen on samplers stitched by Quaker girls. Sarah included a border of strawberry vines on the left and right sides of the sampler. The colors have not faded, when compared to the back of the sampler.

Sarah grew up on a farm in Milford Hundred in Kent County, Delaware. She was the daughter of Waitman Smithers, who was born on February 26, 1790, and died on January 15, 1849, and Mary Dreaden, born March 23, 1800. Her parents married on January 19, 1815. Sarah's paternal grandparents were John Smithers (1751-1814) and Ruth Sipple (1760-1814).

John Smither's father-in-law, Waitman Sipple (1731-1800), was instrumental in the development of Barratt's Chapel, the oldest surviving church built in the United States by and for Methodists. Waitman Sipple's interest in the Methodist faith developed through interactions with Philip Barratt, a prominent resident of Kent County, Delaware, who donated the land for the church. Waitman Sipple supported the construction of the church in 1780. Barratt's Chapel is known as "The Cradle of American Methodism" and today is a familiar landmark along Route 1 near Frederica, Kent County, Delaware. The Museum of Methodism is located on church property.

Sarah Smithers lived at home with her mother and five siblings at the time of the 1850 census, the year after her father died. On February 17, 1852, she married Joshua Spencer (1820-1883), a farmer from Kent County, Delaware. Sarah died on January 13 1855, just short of three years after her marriage. Joshua, who married for a second time about 1872, died of injuries suffered from being hit by a train near Felton, Delaware. Sarah, her husband, and many members of the Smithers and Sipple families, are buried in the cemetery at Barratt's Chapel.

We are grateful to Cynthia Steinhoff for her wonderful research and this writing about Sarah Smithers. This sampler will be published in the forthcoming book, Delaware Discoveries: Girlhood Embroidery, 1750-1850 by Gloria Seaman Allen, due out in 2018.

Worked in silk on linen, it is in excellent condition with one area of loss to the linen. It has been conservation mounted and is in its fine original mahogany frame.
Styles / Movements Folk Art
Incollect Reference Number 252717
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