2014.0033 A, B Sampler and Frame
  • 2014.0033 A, B Sampler and Frame
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Sampler (Marking sampler)

  • Category:

    Textiles (Needlework)

  • Creator (Role):

    Mary D'Silver (Maker)

  • Place of Origin:

    Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, United States, North America

  • Date:


  • Materials:

    Silk; Linen

  • Techniques:

    Embroidered, Woven (plain)

  • Museum Object Number:

    2014.0033 A

  • Complete Details

Object Number

2014.0033 A

Object Name

Sampler (Marking sampler)


Textiles (Needlework)

Credit Line/Donor

Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle.

Creator (Role)

Mary D'Silver (Maker)
January 13, 1785
Information from the purchase memo written by Linda Eaton on 10/22/2014, including research shared by Amy Finkel: "Samplers worked by African-Americans are exceedingly rare; it is believed that this is the only 18th century example known. Winterthur's collection includes two other examples, one worked by Rachel Ann Lee at the Oblate Sisters of Providence school in Baltimore and another worked by Olivia Rebecca Parker at the Lombard Street School. Both are mid-nineteenth century." Research from Amy Finkel: "On August 3, 1783, Emanuel DeSylva and Judith Jones, "free mulattos," were married at Christ Church, Philadelphia, by the Rector, Reverend William White.(i) Three years later, on September 24, 1786, Rev. White baptized one-year-old Mary Desylvas, born on January 13, 1785 and "Daughter of Emanuel & Judith Desylvus - Negroes."(ii) Young Mary D'Silver, one of the many variants spellings of the family name, would go on to work a sampler in 1793 in the 8th year of her age, according to the stitched inscription, at the "Negro School Philadelphia." While the sampler, in and of itself, does not indicate which specific Negro School it was that Mary attended, a preponderance of evidence suggests that Mary was a student at the school administered by the Associates of Dr. Bray. Three Negro schools for children were in operation in Philadelphia in 1793: the aforementioned school of the Bray Associates, a school established by the Pennsylvania Abolition Society founded early in that same year, and the more well-known Quaker-run School for Black People and their Descendants, founded by Anthony Benezet, which was called by varying names including the Benezet School and the Negro School. A search of the records of each school and their administering organizations - the Bray Associates held at the Rhodes House Library, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, available through digitized copies provided by the British Archives, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Benezet School in the Quaker Collection at Haverford College, did not yield any contemporaneous student lists or other materials definitively placing Mary in a particular school. The Associates of Dr. Bray was a London-based Anglican organization that promoted the education of blacks in the British Colonies and their conversion to Christianity. In 1757, the Associates reached out to Benjamin Franklin, then a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, about the propriety of establishing a school in Philadelphia "for the Service of the Blacks." With backing from Franklin and leaders of Christ Church, the Associates of Dr. Bray opened the Negro School at Philadelphia on November 20, 1758, enrolling students who were both free and enslaved.(iii) The school was closed during the American Revolution, but with the cessation of hostilities the school was reopened in December of 1786, and within a year was filled to capacity, teaching such subjects as the alphabet, spelling, the Testament - and also for the girls, knitting and needlework.(iv) Upon the death in 1790 of Benjamin Franklin, who had managed the affairs of the school, Rev. William White, of Christ Church, requested to accept the charge of the school, in place of Franklin. He was appointed to that role in 1791.(v) Reverend White (1748-1836), who became rector of Christ Church in 1779 and remained in that capacity until his death, was a man of great renown, and in his long life was Chaplain of the Continental Congress, trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and a founding member of the American Philosophical Society and the Philadelphia Dispensary for the relief of the poor. His many positions and interests made him a good fit to head the school.(vi) He had become familiar with the Bray Associates during a stay in England in 1787, and prior to his departure promised the Associates he would keep them apprised of the state of their Philadelphia School.(vii) Writing to the Associates in 1795, Rev. White noted that the black people of Philadelphia had "lately erected . . . a very convenient Church, wh[ich] they have called ye African Church of St. Thomas, have declared a Conformity to our Church [meaning the Church of England] in Doctrine, Discipline, & Worship, & have solicited the Divination of one of their Number, a Man of great Weight among them. Having known him many Years & being perfectly satisfied with his Character & his Discretion . . . I have thoughts of complying with their Request."(viii) That man was Absalom Jones, the founder of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Several D'Silvers have a connection to the earliest founding of the Church - an Israel De Silver was a subscriber for the erection of the church in 1792 and Judith D’Silver, Mary's mother, was buried in St. Thomas' cemetery upon her death in 1808.(ix) While the evidence is circumstantial, we conclude that the D'Silver family was certainly acquainted with Rev. White and the Bray Associates Negro School in Philadelphia and, given their almost certain conformity to the doctrines of the Episcopal Church, that Mary D'Silver was a student at the Bray Associates Negro School in 1793 when she worked this sampler." (i) Christ Church of Philadelphia, Register of Marriages, 1709-1800, 4447. (ii) Christ Church of Philadelphia, Register of Baptisms, 1769-1794, 1220. (iii) John C. Van Horne, “The Education of African Americans in Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia,” “The Good Education of Youth”: Worlds of Learning in the Age of Franklin, ed. John H. Pollack (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2009), 80-85. (iv) Ibid., 85-89. (v) Edgar Legare Pennington, “Thomas Bray's Associates and Their Work Among the Negroes,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (October 1938), 378-379. (vi) Bird Wilson, Memoir of the Life of the Right Reverend William White, D.D., Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: James Kay, Jun. & Brother, 1839). (vii) Pennington, op. cit., 379. (viii) Rt. Rev. W. White, D.D. 1st Bishop of Pennsylvania. Correspondence to Dr. Bray's Associates concerning the Negro School at Philadelphia., 1788-1821, The Archives of the Associates of Dr. Bray to 1900 Collection, Rhodes House Library, www.britishonlinearchives.co.uk/browse.php?pid=72535.d. (ix) William Douglass, Annals of the first African church, in the United States of America, now styled the African Episcopal church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia (Philadelphia: King & Baird, 1862), 47; “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JDYR-1YS : accessed 29 Jul 2014), Judith Desilver, 26 Nov to 03 Dec 1808; citing 1293, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1862082.

Place of Origin

Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, United States, North America

Origin Notes

This plain marking sampler was worked in 1793 by Mary D’Silver at the Bray Associates Negro School in Philadelphia.



Mark or Signature or Inscription or Label

1. Inscription; On the sampler; "The well-taught philosophic mind / To all compassion gives; / Casts round the world an eye, / And feels for each that lives. / Wrought by Mary D'Silver / In the 8th Year of her Age Negro / School Philadelphia 1793."


African American maker


Silk; Linen


Embroidered, Woven (plain)

Construction Description


Dimensions (inches)

Dimensions (centimeters)

Measurement Notes

Framed dimensions: (H) 12.625 in., (W) 13.375 in., (D) 1 in.

Object Description

Text available soon.