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Pincushion
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Title: Pincushion
Identifier: 979.6.897
Donor: Geoffrey Sayers
Item Date: 1881
Creation Date: 2011
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: A red cotton strawberry-shaped pincushion. The pincushion is red with white dots and has a green stem and leaves at the top. It is stuffed with a heavy, firm stuffing.

The stuffed pincushion first appears around the 15th century. It was important to keep metal pins securely because they were rare and expensive. Prior to pin cushions they were stored in cases made from bone, ivory or silver. During the Tudor Era it became popular to make pincushions in fancy shapes like fruit, vegetables, fans, dolls and shoes. One of the most popular shapes was the tomato as they symbolized prosperity and were believed to repel evil spirits. In the Victorian Era it became popular to display collections of pincushions as part of the decoration of opulent parlour rooms. Pincushions are usually stuffed with sawdust or sand. Today tomato shaped pincushions often a strawberry tassel at their top. This strawberry is filled with emery and is used to clean and sharpen needles and pins. http://www.ehow.com/facts_6767493_history-tomato-pin-cushions.html#ixzz1gRBnFU1r

This pincushion was found in the sewing box with writing slope that 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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