Needleworks & Rugs
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  • Sallie Hathaway (1782–1851)
  • Probably Massachusetts or New York
  • c. 1794
  • Silk on silk
  • 17 x 20 1/4 in.
  • American Folk Art Museum, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2013.1.45
  • Sallie Hathaway’s elegant embroidery on black silk must have brought delight to her parents, for she was their eighth child but the first to survive infancy. Nevertheless, this was an adventurous family. Sallie’s father, John Hathaway (1753–1818), was a mariner of Freetown, Massachusetts, who married Sarah Conkling of Long Island in 1774, but they were in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington before Sallie was 2 years old. In 1784, they were among the second group of settlers to arrive in the newly established town of Hudson, New York, where John Hathaway soon became the successful owner of a fleet of ships.

    No records reveal where Sallie was educated during the formative years of this port city on the Hudson River. Quite possibly she attended a boarding school in New York City or studied at the recently opened school kept by Miss Betsy Bostwick (1771–1840) in Great Barrington. Bostwick was the oldest daughter of the highly esteemed minister Gideon Bostwick (1742–1793) and Gesie Burghart (1749–1789). Gideon, a Yale graduate of 1762, first settled in Great Barrington as the director of a classical school. In later years, he was ordained and served as minister of the Saint James parish as well as pastor of nearby congregations in New York. The duration of Miss Bostwick’s school is unknown, but she may have been responsible for the exceptional schoolgirl art produced in Great Barrington between 1807 and 1811.

    At present, the best-known pictorial embroideries on black silk were worked at unknown schools of Salem, Massachusetts, from the 1740s through the 1770s, and in Boston during the 1750s and 1760s. Black silk was also the most popular ground material for Boston coats of arms during the second half of the eighteenth century. As yet, however, nothing even slightly akin to Sallie’s silk embroidery has been found, and its place of origin remains a mystery.

    Sallie Hathaway married Seth Jenkins Jr. (1776–1831), whose father was among the original proprietors of the town of Hudson and its first mayor, and whose family members continued to be leading citizens for a century thereafter. The couple had nine children, and Sallie’s needlework descended in the family of their youngest son, Louis Henry Jenkins (1827–1883).
  • Photo courtesy Sotheby’s, New York