Two young sisters’ charming needlework samplers stitched more than 200 years ago share a home at the DAR Museum. In 1997 the Museum purchased a canvas needlework picture made in Philadelphia and signed “Mary Gray June the 6th 1775.” This small floral still life joined a sampler made by Mary’s sister, Martha, dated “June ye 7th 1779,” and held in the Museum collection for almost 60 years.
Both young girls filled their canvas with double-handled bowls overflowing with tulips, jonquils, roses, carnations and irises. Eleven-year-old Mary’s needlework is more polished than Martha’s example, stitched when she was only 8 years old. Their efforts were most likely patterned after an identical source, perhaps the work of their sister, Elizabeth Coultas Gray. In the classic 1921 volume American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe, Elizabeth’s work was described as “Design, bunch of flowers in basket, fills entire sampler.”
The sisters were daughters of prominent and patriotic parents, Martha Ibbetson and George Gray. George was a member and speaker of the Philadelphia General Assembly and author of The Treason Resolutions.
American Spirit, Volume 142, Number 2, March/April 2008, Page 7
Photos by Mark Gulezian/QuickSilver