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This 35" square white cotton table scarf gives some idea of the importance of the Belfield property (now owned by La Salle and housing the President's office and the Security Department) in Philadelphia society and national circles. The Wister Family used this table scarf from about 1893 to 1903 as kind of a guest book for the Belfield Mansion. The visitors signed the cloth in pencil and then one of the family members beautifully embroidered those signatures for posterity. A few penciled signatures remain unembroidered, and the embroidery needle was inserted into one hem about 1903 and remains there to this day.

Signed Table Scarf - Click to view larger

The owners of Belfield at this time were John and Sarah Tyler Boas Wister. John's four brothers and their wives signed in the corners, and the pictures displayed here are of those brothers. John's fifth brother (Langhorne) died in 1891, before the table scarf was in use.

Here is a listing of just a few of the 110 notables who came to Belfield and signed this table scarf:

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin) and her twin daughters; on meeting Stowe in the White House, Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have joked, "so you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
  • Emily Swift Balch, founder of Philadelphia's Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.
  • Sara Yorke Stevenson, archaeologist and the first female museum curator in the United States.
  • John Sartain, famous engraver and artist -- and patron and friend of Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Julia Ward Howe, American reformer, feminist, abolitionist, and writer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
  • Dr. William Henry Furness, friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and outspoken Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Minister.
  • Frances Anne Wister, co-founder of the Philadelphia Orchestra; winner of the Gimbel Award for the "Outstanding Woman of Philadelphia"


Rodman and wife, Betty
Rodman and wife, Betty

William Rotch

William Rotch

Mary Eustis, wife of William Rotch
Mary Eustis, wife of William Rotch

Jones

Jones

Francis

Francis
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