Lydia Hart 1744
Lydia Hart worked this most visually appealing example within Boston’s earliest known group of samplers, which presently dates from 1724 to 1754. Nine pieces portray nearly identical figures of Adam and Eve above similar beasts, birds and insects. They also include elegant renditions of the Scottish thistle and Tudor rose, signifying the 1603 union of Scotland and England upon the ascension of James I (1566-1625). Lydia’s work is the first to have what became a characteristic cross stitched border for these and later eighteenth century pastoral-themed samplers, but its solidly worked stem-stitched background is unique. Earlier pieces done by Mehetabal Done (1724), Martha Butler (1729), and Abigail Pool (1737) depict Adam and Eve beneath borderless alphabets and band patterns. In 1734, Ann Peartree and Elizabeth Langdon worked nearly identical borderless pictorial samplers with similar motifs on brown linen. More closely related to Lydia’s work are samplers by Rebekah Owen (1745), Sarah Lord (1753) and Mary Lord (1754), with the same borders and gardens. Rebekah and Mary worked the same inscription as Lydia:
ADAM AND EVE IN PARADICE THAT WAS THEIR PEDIGREE THEY HAD A GREED NEVER TO DIE OR WOULD THEY OBEDIENT BE
Lydia’s identity remains uncertain. The Lydia born to Elias and Lydia Hart on September 12, 1719, is unlikely to have worked this at the age of 24. Among the nine pieces described above, the known ages of six makers range from 9 to 13 years. A Lydia of appropriate age was born in Northington, Connecticut, to Joseph and Mary Bird Hart on August 8, 1728. Her father was a shoemaker, deacon of the church, and a town magistrate. Quite possibly his daughters were educated in Boston. This Lydia married Noah Gillet (1718-1790) on December 15, 1748, and their ten children were born in Farmington, Connecticut.
No woman is known to have kept a Boston girls’ school from 1724 through 1754, but circumstantial evidence suggests that these samplers may have been worked under the instruction of Susanna Hiller Condy (1686-1747) and her sister-in-law Abigail Stevens Hiller (? – 1775), who advertised her school from February 1748 until May 1756. Four samplers dated 1765 to circa 1772 have Lydia’s strawberry border and similarly worked flowers, including one by Mary Welsh, whose sister Hannah married Abigail’s son Joseph (1721-1758).
Stitches used in this ambitious sampler include trellis, detached buttonhole, stem filling, French knots, satin, cross, and petit point. The original piece measures 11-1/2″ x 9″. On 35 count linen the reproduction will measure approximately 12″ x 14″. The project is recommended for advanced level needleworkers. This piece was reproduced by The Scarlet Letter with the permission of the American Folk Art Museum, a division of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.