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Sewing Box with Writing Slope
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Title: Sewing Box with Writing Slope
Identifier: 979.6.890.1
Donor: Geoffrey Sayers
Item Date: 1881
Creation Date: 2011
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: A sewing box with a writing slope. The upper compartment has many small compartments, many covered with blue satin lids to hold various sewing accessories. The lower compartment opens out into blue velvet sloped writing surface, with a curved wooden compartment at the top to hold pens and a compartment to hold ink. The lock and the mother-of-pearl inlays are on the outside. Inside the box are (1); a tambour hook (for lace making) (2); an awl (3); a seal (for letters) (4); a thimble holder (5); spools (6 a-c); sewing accessories (7 a-e); a key (8); an awl (9). The written paper label in the desk reads: "This lap desk, and sewing base, was a wedding present to Mary Magrath when she married Arthur Harris in September 1881, and it accompanied them on their wedding trip."

Portable boxes for sewing and writing were common in the 19th century. As people began to travel more they needed everyday items that were convenient and portable to take with them. Writing slopes made correspondence easy for those travelling for business or pleasure. Sewing was a popular ladies hobby and the sewing box made it easy to take work along. The portable sewing box and writing slope combination allowed for a two in one use while taking up less space. The sewing box/writing slope would have been a personal item used by one person. They could be simple and utilitarian or elaborately decorated. http://www.hygra.com/sewing.htm

This sewing box with writing slope was a wedding present to Mary Magrath when she married Arthur Harris in September 1881. It accompanied them on their wedding trip to New York. Mary Horatia Magrath Harris (1859-1954) was the granddaughter of Reverend James Magrath (1769- 1851), who was the first rector of St. Peter's Anglican Church in Erindale. Her parents, Christiana (née Sutherland) and William Melchior Magrath, married in 1856. Christiana died after the birth of her third daughter, Isabel, in 1860. Mary and her two sisters were raised by their aunt, Anna Cordelia Magrath, at Erindale Estate. Both the Magraths and Harrises were members of the St. Peter's Anglican Church and the families knew each other well. It was at church that Mary and Arthur Harris first met and later married in 1881. Mary and Arthur had three children, Annie (1882- 1986), Naomi and Margaret (1887). Oral tradition suggests that Mary never fully recovered from the sad loss of her third child and she suffered hearing impairment soon after. Mary was a very generous woman and held in high esteem by all who knew her. She enjoyed polishing silver, crocheting, and gardening. Mary died at the age of 94, January 20th, 1956.
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