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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Wheeler, Sophia Smead
Culture:American (1784-1843)
Date Made:ca. 1814
Materials:textile: bleached (white) cotton in alternating bands of plain and embroidered leno weaves; cotton or linen lining
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Franklin County
Measurements:overall: 50 in.
Accession Number:  HD V.053B
Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. Robert Stebbins Lipp

Woman's empire-style round gown (robe a la athenienne) made of off-white, fine cotton muslin with narrow, vertical bands of leno weave upon which small floral and leaf patterns have been embroidered in chain stitch. This garment is thought to be the wedding gown of Sophia Smead Wheeler (1784-1843), the daughter of Solomon Smead (1754-1825) and Esther Smith Smead (1757-1808) of Greenfield who married Robert Wheeler (1777-1863) of North Stonington, Connecticut, in 1814, where they settled and had five children from 1815-1826, including Sophia Wheeler (1821-1840). The donor is a descendent of Asa Stebbins (1800-1864) of Deerfield through Asa's son, Francis Ward Stebbins (b.1829) and Ellen Wells Stebbins (d.1872); to Francis' son, Roland Stebbins (b.1853) who married Florence Rebecca Barney (1856-1902) of Greenfield in 1879; to Roland's daughter, Ellen Wells Stebbins (1883-1980) who married Lloyd Herbert Lipp (d.1965) in Billings, Montana, in 1905. Other Smead belongings were been passed on to Ellen Wells Stebbins Lipp's granddaughter, Karen L. Dunn. Ms. Dunn also found a note (in data file) written in ink in the family Bible referring to another sampler: "Sampler / Made by Abigail Smead [1787-1808] daughter of Solomon Smead of Greenfield Mass. in the 10th year of her age in 1797. She died in Jan. 1805 of spotted fever aged 18 years. The initials of A.P. stand for Abigail Smead. C. S. for Clarissa Smead [1782-1855]. S.S for Sophia Smead. P. S. for Polly Smead [1791-1807]. S.S. for her father Solomon Smead and E. S. for her mother Esther Smead. / Harriet E. Barney / Denver Col. Feb. 5th 1804" and written "Ellen Wells Stebbins" in pencil on the back. Pure white wedding dresses, which became popular in America during the early Federal period, were the result of the classical revival in both fashions and furnishings that swept over much of western society in the early 19th century. It is possible that the cotton in this gown came from India with its type of decorative embroidery although there was an important cotton industry in the United Kingdom (Lancashire and Scotland) by this time. The bodice has a square cut, gathered neckline, and is short in front and longer in the back. The sleeves are short and puffed, gathered at the armscyes and ending in a band of same fabric muslin. The gown opens with a center back placket, and is secured by both a gathered back neckline tape (missing) and gathered back waistline tape. The skirt, which is attached to bodice at the high waistline, falls straight and is full length with a slight train; there is a tuck at the skirt hem. The gown is unlined, except for the front and sides of the bodice, which are lined in an off-white (coarser) cotton. HD has a sampler made by Sophia Smead (HD 2000.4.1), watercolor profile (HD 70.132) of Sophia Smead, and a christening gown (HD V.053a) probably made by Sophia Smead Wheeler; a sampler (HD 2004.4.2) made by Sophia's daughter, Sophia Wheeler; a silhouette (HD 70.133) of Lovina Burke Smead, Sophia Smead Wheeler's step-mother; and pair of lace sleeves (HD V.53C) from the same family but without any provenance.

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