1955.0003.003 Pocketbook overall
  • 1955.0003.003 Pocketbook overall
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  • Category:

    Textiles (Needlework)

  • Creator (Role):

    Mary Wright Alsop (Maker)

  • Place of Origin:

    Middletown, Connecticut, United States, North America

  • Materials:

    Silk; Linen; Canvas; Cardboard

  • Techniques:

    Knit, Woven (plain), Sewn

  • Museum Object Number:


  • Complete Details

Object Number


Object Name



Textiles (Needlework)

Credit Line/Donor

Gift of Henry Francis du Pont

Creator (Role)

Mary Wright Alsop (Maker)
Mary Wright Alsop was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1740. She was the only child of Joseph Wright (1704-1775) and Hanah Gilbert Wright (1718-1804). Her father was a prosperous farmer and brickyard owner. An only child, she received an education at Sarah Osborn's School in Newport, Rhode Island in 1754. Mary married Richard Alsop (1726-1776), also of Middletown, on April 27, 1760. Richard, from a wealthy New York family, developed a successful business as a Middletown-based West Indies merchant. Mary gave birth to ten children during their 16-year marriage, eight of which survived past infancy. Richard died unexpectedly at the age of 50, in 1776. Richard had made Mary sole administratrix of his vast estate, which took 14 years to settle. Enslaved labor afforded Mary Wright Alsop the time to produce ornamental needlework throughout her adult life. In 1792 Mary sat for a portrait by Ralph Earl, a carte-de-visite of which (1955.0003.021) forms part of the Alsop needlework collection at Winterthur. Mary died in 1829 in Middletown at the age of 89. Mary’s embroideries and knitted objects survive in several museums and private collections.

Place of Origin

Middletown, Connecticut, United States, North America

Mark or Signature or Inscription or Label

1. Inscription; in band; "F: Alsop 1814" (embroidered)
2. Signature; at the fold; "M. Alsop 74" (embroidered)
3. Label; on note in pocket; "worked by my great grand / mother Mary Wright Alsop / for her daughter Fanny Alsop / in 1814. (M.W.A. aged 74 / Middletown Connecticut" (in graphite)


Silk; Linen; Canvas; Cardboard


Knit, Woven (plain), Sewn

Construction Description

Hand-knit, Hand-embroidered

Dimensions (inches)

4.625 (H) , 4.625 (W)

Dimensions (centimeters)

11.748 (H) , 11.748 (W)

Measurement Notes

OH is closed

Object Description

Web - 08/31/2023

Mary Alsop was left a wealthy widow with a large family when her husband died in 1776. As Dr. Marla Miller states in The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution, “…steady production of sophisticated ornamental work is inseparable from the family’s access to slave labor. Before Richard’s death, the Alsop household included at least two enslaved men, Acra and Quash, and a woman, Catherine Barrett. By 1790, five slaves helped care for Mary’s large family. Catherine Barrett would be freed in 1794, while Mary’s 1795 will instructed her children to continue to provide for an ‘aged Negro’ named Jenny” (Miller 101).

A skilled needlewoman, in later life Mary knit and embroidered pocketbooks and reticules (drawstring bags) as gifts for her children and grandchildren. On many she inscribed her name, her age at the time of making, and the name of the recipient. Clearly her grandchildren did not visit as often as she would have liked, as she wrote to one grandson: "I send you a Purse which I knit for you sometime ago, hoping to have the satisfaction of giving it to you myself. Receive it as a small testimony of my affection."

Bibliography and Bibliographic Notes

[Journal] Krueger, Glee. "A Middletown Cameo: Mary Wright Alsop and Her Needlework.". Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library Vol. 52, No.3-4 Summer/Fall 1987
Published: pp. 188-189, fig. 23; pp. 125-137, biography of Mary
[Book] Swan, Susan Burrows. 1977 Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1700-1850.
Published: p.116, pl. 20
[Book] Swan, Susan Burrows. 1995 Plain and Fancy: American Women and their Needlework, 1650-1850.
Published: p. 148, pl. 22
[Book] Fennimore, Donald L., et al. 1994 Eye for Excellence: Masterworks from Winterthur.
Published: pp. 98-99