Mount Vernon, Seat of the Illustrious G W
This sampler and 5717.2 descended to the donor through the daughter of Mary Eliza Jones, Tempe Jones Somerville; who gave them to her daughter, Rosa Gibson Livingston (b. 1877); who gave them to her son, Charles Robert Sherman, Jr. (1912-2006). Charles Robert Sherman, Jr. married Rebecca Laughlin (b. 1915). The couple had no children. The donor received the two pieces from Rebecca Laughlin Sherman who was her mother’s sister.
Exhibit text: The most elaborate silk on silk pictorial embroidery known to survive from the Girls’ Boarding School is this image of Mount Vernon stitched by Mary Ann Speed (1796-1826) while she was student between 1810 and 1812.
An orphan by the age of thirteen, Mary Ann was sent to Salem from Mecklenberg County, Virginia, by her cousin and guardian attorney Richard Apperson. In a letter to her guardian in 1811, Inspector Steiner wrote that Mary Ann was “advanced in Grammar, Geography, Music, Drawing, Needlework, and other female accomplishments.”
The 1806 inventory of the embroidery materials on hand lists “pictures, drawings & engravings.” Given the location of these materials—in the embroidery room—they were probably used as embroidery patterns.
Mary Ann’s exquisite depiction of Mt. Vernon is an example of how one of these prints might have been used. After the death of George Washington in 1799, the young republic of America went into mourning for the much beloved national hero. Mount Vernon became a popular destination for travelers and a popular print subject. Mary Ann may have been inspired by any number of prints of the mansion.
The accounting of Mary Ann’s expenditures between June 1811 and January 1812 records her purchase of the variety of materials she would have needed to complete this needlework including 81 skeins of embroidery silk, 41 ½ yards of silk chenille, ribbons and tape, and satin. Perhaps the “frame with glass” she purchased for $1.50 on January 3, 1812 was meant for this needlework specimen. JMB 10/14