“King Ahasuerus and his Wife Queen Esther”
Rebeckah Wheeler (1645-1718)
Probably Concord, Massachusetts, 1660-1670
Worsted wool, silk, and metal thread embroidery, with beads on linen
Gift of Cummings E. Davis (1886) T100
This important needlework picture has long been listed in needlework books and elsewhere as the earliest signed and dated pictorial embroidery of American origin. Town records hold that Joseph Wheeler came to Concord in 1636-7 from Kent, England, and birth records indicate that his daughter, Rebeckah, with wife Sarah Merriam Wheeler, was born in September of 1645. The picture itself is not dated, however; it is an associated piece of velvet fragment that has the following name and date on it: "Rebeckah Wheeler/Ye month May 1664." The embroidered scene is from the Old Testament, which was considered an appropriate source of imagery for young girls' embroidered pictures.