Published: July 10, 2012
Back in early spring, Withington Auction’s crew was called to clean out one of the oldest houses in Essex, Mass., the residence of one of the first colonial ministers. This remarkable relic had stood sentinel over the town since the mid-1700s and in recent times had suffered from neglect.
Emptying the house, the crew filled the truck with blanket boxes and banister back chairs, tables and slant lid desks, among other items. The task was almost complete as a small, three-drawer chest was removed from its place as a bedside stand for the past 30 years †and behind it the crew found a framed “picture” encased in spider webs, long forgotten. In the daylight, it looked like a sampler and needed a closer look.
On the way back to New Hampshire, they had their first opportunity to examine the piece more closely †A-B-Cs, 1-2-3s in cross-stitch, signed “Mary B. Danforth Aged 14 years, July 22,” a poem, “Teach me to feel another’s woe….” by Alexander Pope, ending in “1821.” Depicting a house, pale teal silk embroidered willow trees, birds and flowers, a swag and tassel border, the piece was wrought on soft-red linen fabric.
Further research revealed Mary B. Danforth’s birth listed in the Manchester, Mass., Vital Records, and in the listing of marriages, Mary B. Danforth was married in 1826 to Rufus W Long, a cabinetmaker from Hopkinton, N.H.
On June 30, the auction tents were alive with dealers and collectors of every interest. When the red sampler came across the block, the action took all of a minute, going to the trade at $35,200, including the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.withingtonauction.com or 603-464-3232. † WD
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