Sunday, October 7, 2012

Madame Grelaud's Female Seminary

A Phildelphia Eagle Sampler by
 Matilda  Filbert
1830

Madame Grelaud had the honor of owning the most fashionable girl's school in Philadelphia from about 1800 into the 1850s.

 
In 1810 Mme. Grelaud's Seminary
was on the north side of Arch Street above 3rd,
 with the Second Presbyterian church on the corner.
 
Like many of the foreign women who relied upon a school for income, Mme. Deborah Grelaud's past was a bit mysterious. She was French, probably a refugee from the colony of Sante Domingue, modern Haiti, one of the white aristocrats who fled during the revolution there in 1790s. Her husband's end is also mysterious. He may have been killed in that slave rebellion or died after escaping to the United States.

Madame Grelaud advertised an
embroidery curriculum in this ad from the
Pennsylvania Gazette in the fall of 1801.

The widowed Deborah with three boys and a girl to support started her successful school, known for its French curriculum, lessons in art and music and public musicales that entertained Philadelphia society in the evenings. During the War of 1812 the three Grelaud sons, Titon, John and Arthur sailed with naval officer Stephen Girard from Valparaiso to Canton. Her daughter Aurora taught with her. Both women lived into their late eighties, so the school had a long infuence.
  
Mme Grelaud's Female Seminary was expensive and exclusive. Among Amelia Russell's classmates in the teens were daughters of many of the society women we've discussed over the past year. Martha Washington's granddaughter Eliza Law was sent there after her parent's separation. Martha Custis Peter's daughters Columbia and America were among the many Southern girls who boarded as were Nelly Custis Lewis's girls Parke and Agnes. Rosalie Calvert's daughters Caroline and Eugenia went when the Calverts had the cash to spare. Diplomat's daughters like Amelia Russell and Maria Hester Monroe boarded and Philadelphia's upper class girls attended the day school.

Later students included Varina Howell Davis and Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

Betty Ring, the authority on embroidered samplers, identified various sampler styles, using details such as eagles in Philadelphia samplers to link samplers visually to schools and teachers in England and the United States. She found none attributable to Madame Grelaud's. Ring's collection was sold at a Sotheby's auction earlier this year.

Another Philadelphia Eagle sampler, this one from the Sotheby's sale.
The eagle samplers date from 1820-1840.
 
See the catalog of Betty Ring's sampler collection here:
http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2012/important-american-schoolgirl-embroideries-the-landmark-collection-of-betty-ring-n08832/lots.list.1.html

And read Ring's research here:
http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2012/important-american-schoolgirl-embroideries-the-landmark-collection-of-betty-ring-n08832/overview.html
 Click on the three files of her work American Embroidery and 2 volumes of Girlhood Embroidery, a great online resource.


Margaret Moss sampler 1825
Collection of the Cooper-Hewitt
 
 Once you read Ring's work it becomes quite obvious that sampler patterns were passed on by professional teachers to their students.We can use a parallel logic to connect quilts from the early 19th century and wonder where these two quiltmakers got the pattern for their swag borders.

Ann Daggs, Dagg or Dagge
Dated 1818
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution

Louisa Brigham
Dated 1817
Connecticut Quilt Project
 
These two medallion quilts dated right after the War of 1812 have a lot more in common than their swag borders with triple leaf details. Both are unusual for the time in their reliance on conventional applique of small-scale calico prints rather than on Broderie Perse or cut-out chintz applique.

Maria Monroe stitched a sampler in 1814. You can buy a kit for the copy above here:
http://www.posycollection.com/AshLawn/ASHLAWNMariaMonroeSampler5.html

3 comments:

WoolenSails said...

I love old samplers and have used them for ideas in quilting. Wonderful for simple designs with the folk art look.

Debbie

suzanne said...

I'm going to look in the sampler books for crossed flags covered by a union shield. I hadn't thought of samplers as a possible source for that motif before. Thanks. It might be worth mentioning M. Finkle & Daughter, the current renowned Philadelphia sample sellers. Love that name, "and Daughter".

Anonymous said...

The Matilda Filbert sampler was made in Lebanon County, PA, most likely under the direction of a Mrs. Ross. Matlida lived in Womelsdorf, Berks County, along the Berks-Lebannon line.