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

CT sampler by Starr from Huber

Martha Mortimer Starr
Middletown, CT dated 1791

Martha Mortimer Starr stitched a lively and exuberant sampler in 1791 when she was fourteen years old. Her unknown teacher most likely designed the sampler with an overall stitched central panel displaying a large two-story, center-hall house with a pond in the foreground, animals grazing and a boy fishing. The meandering floral swag border with bow-ties is similar in style to samplers that were made in Wethersfield in the early 19th century and perhaps was borrowed from this design.

Martha Mortimer Starr (1777-1848) was born April 24, 1777, daughter of George Starr (1740-1820) and Ann Catharine Carnall. Her mother's uncle, Philip Mortimer and his wife Martha (for whom Martha was named), were wealthy Irish merchants and it was thought that Ann would inherit their fortune. However, that was not the case and Philip left his fortune to Ann's son George, Martha's brother. According to his will his slaves were to be freed upon his death. George contested and succeeded in overturning the will and the slaves and the fortune were transferred to him. It later prompted an attempt on his life by two of the slaves and one was imprisoned for life at Newgate a prison near Middletown. In 1822, Martha Mortimer Starr's house was burned to the ground by one of the others who was imprisoned for five years, also at Newgate. Martha married John Lawrence Lewis, September 23, 1799, and later divorced.

Virtue's the chiefest beauty of the mind/ The noblest ornament of human kind/ Virtue's our safeguard and our guiding star/ That stirs up reason when our senses err/ Martha Mortimer Starr Middletown 1791

Silk on linen; 16" x 15"sight.

Illustrated in the exhibition and book With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery From the Connecticut River Valley by Carol and Stephen Huber


(860) 388-6809


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