Sampler by Sellah Fulgham

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  • Artist/Maker: Sellah Fulgham
  • Isle of Wight County, Virginia
  • May 20, 1761 (dated)
  • Silk embroidery threads on a linen ground of 40 x 31 threads per inch
  • Gift from the estate of Mrs. Mary Wrenn Cofer Ballard in honor of her daughters, Mary Wrenn Ballard Oliver and Anne Lewis Ballard Weaver
  • 1988-460

Samplers, such as Sellah Fulgham's, were usually the product of a schoolgirl working under the direction of a teacher who designed the sampler as well as provided the necessary instruction in stitches. Many of the samplers produced in the Chesapeake region during the eighteenth-century depict neat and precise stitching techniques using reversible stitches—a labor-intensive construction characteristic paralleled in the furniture of a region that favored the "neat and plain" and "English style." Reversible stitches, such as the marking cross, created a sampler just as neat on the back as the front.

The earliest identified Virginia sampler marked with its maker’s name, origin, and date is this unfinished sampler by Sellah Fulgham dated 1761. It typifies early Chesapeake Virginia needlework in the use of marking cross and Irish stitches. The stitches are so neatly executed that the reverse of the sampler mirrors the front. Religious and moral verses were an integral part of most Virginia samplers. Sellah’s inscription proudly proclaims Isle of Wight County, Virginia, as her home and reminds the viewer of her faith.

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