This sampler was worked by Mary Fitz (1807–1849) in 1819 at the Catherine Welshans Buchanan’s school in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. The central scene depicts two fashionably dressed women in a grape arbor, one standing and the other seated on a bench. The border is made up of compartmentalized motifs including a heart, baskets of grapes and flowers, flowering sprigs, birds, a house, two boys playing, and an inscription. The rendering of the boys is likely based on a painting by William Hamilton (1751–1801) entitled Playing at Marbles, from his Children at Play series. A related sampler, in the collection of the Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania, featuring similar ladies and an identical bench within a naturalistic floral border, was worked at Mrs. Buchanan’s School in 1823 by Ann Osborn.
Catherine Welshans Buchanan (1792–1852) taught in Maytown, Wrightsville, and Marietta. Samplers worked under her instruction are very similar to those made at the Lancaster and Harrisburg schools of Leah Galligher Maguire (1764–1830). Elements found on samplers from the Buchanan school, such as pastoral scenes, compartmentalized decoration, and the use of human hair and metallic thread, appear to have originated at the Maguire school. Catherine was evidently influenced by Leah’s sampler patterns, and may have even studied at her Harrisburg school.
Mary Fitz was one of twelve children born to Jacob Fitz (1780–1839) and Susana Herr (1783–1838) of York County, Pennsylvania. She married in 1830, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Maytown, Joseph Bucher (b. ca. 1810), a shoemaker from Marietta. The couple moved to Cumberland County and had at least five children: Theodore (b. ca. 1832), George Washington (1835-1858), Amanda (b. ca.1840), and Joseph (b. ca. 1842), and a daughter (b. ca. 1844) whose given name does not appear in census records. Mary died at the age of forty-one and is buried at Salem (Hope) Methodist Cemetery in Hampden Township.
Jennifer N. Johnson holds a degree from the Parsons/Cooper-Hewitt Master's Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. While pursuing her studies, she completed a two-year fellowship researching the Cooper-Hewitt's American sampler collection. She is currently a Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts department at Yale University Art Gallery.