Friday, May 27, 2011

An Examination of Anne Maria Clarke's Lafayette Sampler

Hello from the Shenandoah! 

As promised, I have compiled research about the Anne Maria Clarke sampler.  As many of you know, my trip to Richmond to see the original sampler was very exciting and the records room of the Valentine Museum where the sampler is housed were full of wonderful information.  It very important for me to note that much of the information discussed here was drawn heavily from a wonderful conservator’s report, Anne Maria Clarke’s Sampler: A Technical and Historical Examination, written by Susan Adler. Ms. Adler wrote her report in December 1994 while she was a student in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Graduate Program in Art Conservation.

A reproduction of Anne Maria Clarke's sampler

Anne Maria Clarke was born on April 9, 1812, the daughter of Archibald and Maria Clarke. She was probably born in Henrico County, Virginia; her parents, Archibald and Maria Clarke were married in Henrico and her marriage to George Knox Crutchfield also took place in the same county. Ms. Adler accessed records at the Virginia Historical Society that lead us to believe that Anne was married sometime between 1841 and 1844. She bore three children: John, Helen and James. James died in infancy and Anne died in 1851 at the age of 39. She was the second wife of George Knox Crutchfield and although he married three times during his lifetime, he erected beautiful, obelisk monuments at the graves of all of his wives in Shockoe Hill Cemetery.
Gravemarker for Anne Maria Clark Crutchfield

Gravemarkers of Anne Maria and her husband's first wife, Willamenia

Anne Maria Clarke’s sampler came to the Valentine Museum through a donation from a woman in California. She had received the sampler from the widow of a member of the Crutchfield family. We do not know exactly where Anne Maria stitched her sampler; she may have stitched it at home or possibly at school. The linen and large amounts of silk (most likely imported,) along with the long hours required to stitch such an elaborate piece tells us that Anne Maria probably came from a well to do family. Her husband, a well-known sign and house painter, was a long-time member of the Richmond City Council and served four terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. It is doubtful that George Crutchfield himself actually painted houses and signs; however, it is more probable that he was the owner of a well-known painting business. Sign and building painters in the 18th and 19th centuries were quite affluent, especially in large cities like Richmond. Business signs today are electrified pieces of plastic; during Anne Maria’s time, sign painters were in high demand as they were the foundation of advertising. Look at any downtown picture from the 19th century and you will see a plethora of signage. Enough to make any historic downtown development association swoon!

So, why would our dear Anne Maria stitch such an elaborate sampler to commemorate the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette? Well, as most of you know, the French gave us immeasurable aid during our war for independence from the Great Britain. Quite frankly, without French support, we might still be singing “God Save the Queen.” Lafayette served as a major-general in the Continental Army under George Washington. He returned to France during the war to request more aid for the Americans; King Louis XVI agreed and Lafayette returned in time to block English troops and further the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. French support was crucial to independence and Lafayette was not only an important character but the symbol of French aid to the Americans. Put simply, to Americans, Lafayette was a hero in every sense of the word. George Washington regarded Lafayette as the son he never had and Lafayette in return named his only son George Washington Lafayette. The men were so close that Lafayette requested soil from Washington’s grave be placed on his own final resting place in Paris.
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette

 In February 1824, President James Monroe extended an invitation to Lafayette to visit the United States to help America celebrate its 50th birthday. Lafayette jumped at the invitation (things were not going so well in his native France at the time…another pesky revolution was wrapping up) and arrived in the U.S. in August 1824. His visit lasted over a year and Lafayette returned to France in September 1825. During that time, Lafayette visited all 24 states and numerous towns and cities. It is hard for us in the 21st century to understand the importance of Lafayette’s visit. However, I believe that Ms. Adler said it best; “Lafayette’s visit was not an event, it was an era.” The only equivalent that comes to mind would be a year long visit by the Queen of England or maybe Prince William and his bride, Princess Catherine. The excitement would be palatable!  Below is a platter commemorating Lafayette's arrival in New York from France.
File:DAR pot - IMG 8651.JPG
Platter, pearlware with transfer-printed decorations; James and Ralph Clews, Cobridge, Staffordshire, circa 1825. Inscription: "Landing of General Lafayette at Castle Garden, New York 16 August 1824". Pottery exhibited in the DAR Museum, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, 1776 D Street NW, Washington, DC, USA.

Entire cities shut down in order to celebrate a visit from Lafayette and Richmond was no exception. For an entire week, regular business was suspended in Richmond and crowds rushed in from all over to see him. Hundreds of festivities were planned to honor the French soldier; he met Revolutionary war veterans, visited schools, attended baptisms and weddings, and was the guest of honor at numerous parades and parties.

So where does our dear Anne Maria fit into all of this? Well, that is a question that I cannot fully answer. We know that Anne Maria was living in Richmond during Lafayette’s visit. Her sampler tells us that she probably came from a relatively well to do family and that she probably met Lafayette, either at a party or she may have been one of the numerous school children he met. While I don’t have solid evidence, if she did not meet Lafayette, I feel certain that she at least saw him in a parade or during some other public festivity.

Now, where does the sampler come into the story? Obviously, Anne Maria stitched her sampler to commemorate Lafayette’s visit to Richmond. However, the surviving dates on her sampler leave more questions than answers. Lafayette’s visit to American took place from August 1824 to September 1825 and Anne Maria included two dates on her sampler, 1824 and January 30, 182? (the thread that stitched the last numeral has since disappeared.) The invitation to Lafayette from the United States was not extended until February 1824; so, Anne Maria could not have possibly finished her sampler on January 30, 1824…Lafayette had not yet been invited!

My reproduction.  You can see Anne Maria stitched the Invitation date  as 1824 (which is correct.)

If you look closely, you can see on the right hand side of the sampler, the date January 30, 182__.  This is a photo of the reproduction I am stitching.

Therefore, it is more probable that Anne Maria started her sampler sometime right before or after Lafayette’s visit to Richmond in October 1824 and she finished it on January 30, 1825 and means that Lafayette probably did not see the sampler. However, that doesn't mean that Anne Maria did not meet Lafayette. As discussed earlier, her parents were probably well to do and would have been involved in the week long festivities celebrating the visit of the Marquis. While there is no solid proof that Anne Maria actually met Lafayette, one would like to think that she probably did meet the old soldier. Her sampler commemorating his visit is large and quite complicated. A young girl of twelve years would not undertake such a large, time consuming project unless there was some kind of special attachment to the subject. Anyone who has attempted to reproduce Anne Maria’s sampler can attest to that! Besides, it is rather romantic to think that a twelve year old Anne Maria, after meeting the famous, French hero was so enraptured that she felt inclined to commemorate the special event with needle and thread.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the creation of the sampler, one thing is for certain, it is an exquisite piece of art. After visiting Anne Maria’s grave in Richmond, I feel much closer to her and I hope that as I re-create her sampler, she will smile down on me and guide my hands.

Thank you for being patient and listening to me ramble on about Anne Maria.  I have made some progress on her and will post a more recent pic soon.  I hope that everyone has a fabulous and safe holiday!

Happy Stitching!

Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784 (The Home of Washington after the War)
by Rossiter and Mignot

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