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Memorial Embroidery

Switzer, Mary Susanna
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
silk –watercolor
HOA: 18; WOA: 24
Accession Number:
This silk on silk embroidery with watercolor was likely the work of Mary Susanna Switzer (1789-1834). It is based on the print “America Lamenting” by Joseph Strutt after a now-lost painting by Robert Edge Pine (1730-1788). The print depicts an allegorical representation of America kneeling in front of an obelisk and pyre with the names of Revolutionary War martyrs Richard Montgomery (1738-75), Joseph Warren (1741-75), David Wooster (1711-77), and Hugh Mercer (c.1725-77). America is comforted by figured representing virtue, liberty, industry, and plenty. An angel bearing an olive branch symbolizes peace.

MESDA has recorded two additional embroidered pictures from South Carolina (S-9098 and S-11284) based on “America Lamenting.” An additional example is in the collection of the Winterthur Museum (1959.0663 A). Two additional embroidered pictures in the collection of the Charleston Museum (HT-7298 and HT-6439) share the same provenance as MESDA needlework and are thought to be by either Mary or her sister Prudence. It is not yet known with whom Mary or Prudence studied.

Mary Susanna Switzer was the daughter of Swiss-born John Switzer, a successful saddle and harness maker who was active in Charleston’s large German community. During the American Revolution John served alongside the cabinetmaker Jacob Sass in the German Fusiliers. Mary married Sass’s son, Edward George Sass (1788-1849). Like his father, Edward was a cabinetmaker. On John’s death in 1810 Jacob and Edward George Sass served as executors.

Following their marriages, Mary Susanna (Switzer) Sass and her sister Prudence (Switzer) Gready advertised schools where they taught both “plain and ornamental needlework.”

CONSERVATION: The needlework was conserved and framed for exhibition in 2017.

Descended from Mary Susannah (Switzer) Sass (1789-1834) to Mary Matilda (Sass) Hubbell (1820-1880) to Rosalie Lawrence (Hubbell) Maul (1849-1918) to Beulah (Maul) Jordan (b.1880) to Rosalie (Jordan) Evans (1908-1999).
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund