1955.0003.011 Needlework Purse
  • 1955.0003.011 Needlework Purse
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Purse (Reticule)

  • Category:

    Textiles (Needlework)

  • Creator (Role):

    Mary Wright Alsop (Knitter)

  • Place of Origin:

    Middletown, Connecticut, United States, North America

  • Date:


  • Materials:

    Silk; Chenille; Metallic thread

  • Techniques:

    Knit, Woven (plain)

  • Museum Object Number:


  • Complete Details

Object Number


Object Name

Purse (Reticule)


Textiles (Needlework)

Credit Line/Donor

Gift of Henry Francis du Pont

Creator (Role)

Mary Wright Alsop (Knitter)
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. Signature; on top blue band; "JOHN ALSOP 1812 MA / 72" (knit silk threads)
2. Inscription; Note inside purse; "Knitted purse of / John Alsop 1812 / No. 80" (handwritten, ink)


Silk; Chenille; Metallic thread


Knit, Woven (plain)

Construction Description


Dimensions (inches)

8.125 (H) , 3.875 (W)

Dimensions (centimeters)

20.637 (H) , 9.842 (W)

Object Description

Web - 10/13/2014

Mary Alsop was left a wealthy widow with a large family when her husband died in 1776. A skilled needlewoman, in later life she 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. 186-187, fig. 22; 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