Liberty Guided by the Wisdom of '76

Liberty Guided by the Wisdom of '76

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After a young lady learned to embroider a sampler, she might attend a female academy to make a silk embroidered picture. This was a more challenging technique that became popular in the early 1800s. Subjects included classical, biblical, and historical scenes, as well as mourning pictures.
This circular embroidery of Liberty, with spear and shield, also depicts a boy and girl looking toward a temple on a distant hilltop, while an eagle carrying a liberty cap and an olive branch flies overhead. Liberty's helmet and shield are worked in gold thread, and there is a painted eye in the center of the shield. She wears a light blue dress striped with violet. The bodice is decorated with a painted gilt face surrounded by gold spangles. The eagle is done in gold paint and there are 17 gold painted stars above it. A glass mat is reverse-painted in black with a 3/4" gold and black sawtooth band around a 17" circular opening. In the upper corners are gilt cornucopias, and in the lower corners, gilt conventionalized flowers. Above the opening are the words “HARRIET M. SALTER,” and below the opening, “LIBERTY GUIDED BY THE WISDOM OF '76.” The picture is stitched on a plain-weave ivory silk ground with silk thread. The stitches used are satin, long and short, French knot, outline, and couching.
The liberty cap is a conical-shaped cap that was worn as a symbol of freedom from tyranny through rebellion during the Revolutionary War. The eagle was a national emblem of victory through the blessings of God, and the eye in the center of the shield is a symbol of the eye of God keeping watch on humankind.
Harriet worked her silk picture c.1807 at the school of Mrs. Lydia Bull Royce in Hartford, Connecticut. Identifying characteristics of this school are the appliquéd garments on the figures and trees with peculiar star-shaped chenille-worked leaves. Harriet’s elder sister, Christian, also worked an embroidered picture at Mrs. Royce's school, c.1805. See page 213 in Girlhood Embroidery, American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework by Betty Ring (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).
Harriet Salter was the second of nine children born to John and Mary Williams Salter of Mansfield, Connecticut. Born on March 20, 1792, she married Heman Ely as his second wife on August 20, 1828. They moved from Tolland, Connecticut, to Elyria, Ohio, and had one son, Charles Arthur. Harriet died August 6, 1846.
Currently not on view
Object Name
embroidery, picture
Salter, Harriet Maria
place made
United States: Connecticut, Hartford
Physical Description
silk (thread material)
silk (ground material)
overall: 17 7/8 in x 17 3/4 in; 45.4025 cm x 45.085 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Greenwood
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Embroidered Pictures
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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