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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Meahl

18th Century Boston Fancy Needlework Wrought By a Lady?

*Originally posted September 26th 2018*

Faith Trumbull Huntington (c. 1753), “The Hanging of Absalom,”Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, CT

How old was this “woman” when she stitched this “picture?”

Answer: 10!

Her name was Faith Trumbull Huntington (1743-1775) and she stitched this piece under the tutelage of Elizabeth Murray (1726-1785), famed merchant and educator. Young elite girls in 18th century New England were “sent out” to colonial Boston’s version of finishing schools. There, they would learn the fine arts befitting the future wife of a wealthy man: needlework, dancing, tea serving and other niceties.

Faith was the eldest daughter of the future Governor Jonathan Trumbull (1710-1780) and his wife Faith Robinson Trumbull (1718-1780) and sister to the Revolutionary War artist John Trumbull. She inspired him to seek his own artistic expression.

Faith was also the wife of Colonel Jedediah Huntington of Norwichtown, CT–they were a love match. Unfortunately, Faith would commit suicide, at age 32, after months of depression caused, in part, by the very real stress she experienced during that first tumultuous year of the American Revolution: 1775.

One of two impressive overmantels expertly stitched by a young Faith Trumbull Huntington before her marriage to the patriot leader, Jedediah “Jed” Huntington.

Faith was an incredible needlewoman. One of the best of her time. Luckily, there are four known pieces of her embroidery that we can enjoy–just as her family did back at their Georgian mansion in Lebanon. The first was entitled,The Death of Absalomand is located at the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London, CT. The second was a practice square picture of a woman milking a cow. The last of her known works are two huge (4- ft long) oblong overmantels (also called chimney pieces). They sit in protective storage at the Connecticut Historical Society. These pieces of needlework art were highly valued and conspicously displayed in wainscoted parlors. The height of this impressive era of needlework art was the mid-18th century when New England merchants were rich and willing to invest money in their daughters’ educations in order for them to make an advantageous match for life. Needlework art in the form of elaborate samplers continued to be important in the lives of young New England girls until the mid-19th century.

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