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Stephen & Carol Huber: 17th - 19th Century Needlework

sampler by Platt from Huber 280-2

Lot Number: 280-2 (description taken from Sotheby's catalogue)


The first by Martha Platt, Milford, Conneticut, dated 1827, worked with silk threads on linen in eyelet, satin, buttonhole, outline, long and short, and cross-stitches. Inscribed: Martha Platt s Wrought 1827 aged 12. 16 1/2  by 8 inches; (22 threads to the inch);

Sothby's estimate: $8,750 - $11,500 (for lots 280-1, 2, 3) combined with 25% buyer's premium added)

Sold (SPECIAL SALES PRICE - no buyers premium)
(for sampler 280-2 only, pictured above)

(To purchase call 860-388-6809)

Catalogue Note:

The residents of Milford, Connecticut, which is situated on the Wepawaug River, along Long Island Sound, showed little concern for public education during the first few decades of the nineteenth century, depending instead on schooling by private means for those who could afford to pay. l An attempt was made in 1824 to hire Betsey Fowler of Ship Yard Lane at "8 1/2 [dollars?]" a month (it is not known whether she accepted the offer). In 1836, schoolmistress Alma L. Williams billed Mr. Ford 14 1/2 cents a week to educate his daughter, Elizabeth. The amount for an eight-week term was $1.16.2 While it is known that private schools for girls were available in Milford, many parents sent their daughters to be educated in more fashionable New Haven boarding schools. The long history of schooling in New Haven begins in 1651, with the dame school kept by Goodwife Wickham.3 Martha Platt may have studied needlework and ornamental embroidery in New Haven, for her sampler bears a certain similarity to a sampler worked by Lydia Church in 1791, at Mary Mansfield's New Haven school. Mansfield, who taught at least from 1791 to 1793, may have been responsible for the initial sampler design, which was then continued by another teacher.4 Martha's unbordered sampler displays a modest, and for the period straightforward, version of the central portion of that stitched by Lydia Church, which is lavishly embellished with a wide, solidly embroidered black border. Like Lydia, however, Martha has worked similarly branched trees, a house with two of the windows divided into twelve panes, a pedimented door pierced by two glazed inserts, a garden of flowers, and sprightly costumed figures.5 Although verging on the ordinary, Martha's sampler has been adorned with two of the most enchanting figures in American sampler embroidery. Each figure, meticulously endowed with human hair, holds a tiny nosegay of flowers. The figure to the left wears a fashionable blue, tent-stitched dress, scrupulously trimmed with pale ivory silk, while the figure at the right wears a dress with a soft blue bodice and a biscuit-colored skirt, worked entirely in horizontal bands of buttonhole stitches. This unusual method of depicting a particular style of fashion-with thread, needle, and a minimum number of stitches-is technically extremely difficult. But Martha Platt succeeded in achieving graceful, properly proportioned figures and, most important, has created the effect of finely pleated, or gathered, tiers of fabric in one of the costumes. The very smallest of neatly worked slippers may be detected at the hemline of each dress. Fancy needlework of the first and second quarters of the nineteenth century sometimes lacks a certain sophistication when compared to the fine examples taught by earlier, more demanding schoolmistresses. The rage for ornamental embroidery in schools for girls was diminishing by the middle of the century, to be supplanted by special classes in painting, drawing, and music. Thus an acceptance of greater simplicity in needlework may explain the missing border on Martha Platt's sampler, though her delightful sampler figures remain unsurpassed. Born in Milford on October 28, 1815, to Nathan Platt and Sarah Fowler, Martha was the youngest of four children. Her family was among the first to settle in New Haven in the first half of the seventeenth century.6 The house in which Martha lived still remains on old East Town Street. Built in 1823, it was occupied by members of the Platt family for over 150 years.7 Sometime before 1841; Martha Platt married De Luzerne Hubbell. They lived in a large white house on Clark Street in Milford. They had no children. Martha Platt Hubbell died April 26, 1887, and is buried in the Milford Center Cemetery.8

1. History of Milford, Connecticut, 1639-1939 (State of Connecticut, Federal Writers' Project, 1939),81.

2. History of Milford, 82. Federal Census, Milford, Connecticut, 1830, lists Betsey Fowler as a teacher.

3. Woody, History of Women's Education, vol. 1: 138.

4. Krueger, New England Samplers, 20,145.

5. The Church sampler is in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford; see Bolton and Coe, American Samplers, opp. 324.

6. Susan Woodruff Abbot, comp., Families of Early Milford, Connecticut, ed. Jacquelyn L. Ricker (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc., 1979), 565. See also Charles Platt, J r., Platt Genealogy in America-From the Arrival of Richard Platt in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1638 (New Hope, PA, 1963), 98. See also Nathan Stowe, Sixty Years' Recollections of Milford, ed. Newton Harrison (rev. ed., Milford, CT, 1917), map between 92, 93. Baptismal Records, Milford, Connecticut, vol. 1 (First United Church of Christ, Milford, CT), 125. I am indebted to Richard Platt, Jr., and Caroline Platt Walsh, who corresponded with me from May through August 1982. Mr. Platt identified the location of Martha Platt's home and has shared many family remembrances. I appreciate his kind assistance.

7. Correspondence with Richard Platt, July 22, 1982.

8. Platt, Platt Genealogy, 98. See also Connecticut Church Records, vol. 2 (Connecticut State Library, Hartford), 37, 38. Martha Hubbell was admitted to the church in 1841; Platt letter of April 21, 1982. I have visited the cemetery in Milford to document the date of her death.

Martha Platt- Davida Deutsch, New York, April, 1978

Exhibited and Literature: LACMA, Martha Platt, pp. 91-92, fig. 38.

(860) 388-6809


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