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Historic needlepoint portrait on display at Needles & Pins

By Donna DanielsStaff WriterA piece of history now hangs in Needles & Pins, Ginny Saliman’s stitchery shop in Glenwood Springs. It is a unique bit of embroidery that captures an era.It is a portrait of the Great Emancipator, President Abraham Lincoln, framed in oval gilt. It was created by Caroline Brown Spencer in 1861 and is stitched in wool on silk. In fact, the silk is a piece of Spencer’s wedding gown. She fashioned the piece to donate to an auction to raise funds for a Civil War veterans home in her home town of Milwaukee.Her uncle, George Walker, was a prominent businessman and one of the founders of Milwaukee.The portrait is faded now, but still shows the president in perfect detail. To see it from even a few steps away, it appears to the eye more as an oil painting than something stitched in thread.Sketchy details were provided by Mari Riddile of New Castle, whose husband, Arthur, is a descendant of Spencer’s. Apparently Robert Guy Clarkson purchased the portrait and gave it back to Spencer “as a tribute for the work she put into it,” Riddile said.As it happened, Spencer married Clarkson in 1866, five years after stitching the portrait.Mrs. Clarkson left the portrait to her son, Arthur, who in turn passed it on to his daughter, Harriet Riddile. In 1999, she gave the portrait to Arthur and Mari.The Riddile family traces its ancestry back to one of the passengers of the Mayflower, one Richard Warren after whom another descendant, Warren Graham, was named. Graham was the first soldier from Wisconsin to be killed in the Civil War, Riddile said. She named her son Graham after that illustrious ancestor.And it was Warren Graham, whose direct relationship to Spencer is unknown, who inspired her to create the piece, Riddile said.The portrait, on loan to Salimen from the Riddile family, can be seen during regular shop hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The shop will be open for extended holiday hours from Thanksgiving through Christmas: Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The shop is located at 712 Blake St. in Glenwood Springs in the historic St. James Inn.For information, call 945-2074.


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