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Copyright hy
Massachusetts Society


Colonial Dames of America

LoARA Standish's Samplfr. Plymoutli. Mass. Cir. 1G40
Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth

Plate presented by Mrs. William L. McKee






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14 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass.

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Anne Gower's Sajipler. Salem, Mass. About 1610
Owned by the Essex Institute


IN preserving the memory of our ancestors, their domestic virtues
have been scantily recorded, a neglect which demands attention.
Unable to answer many inquiries for publications on early Amer-
ican needlework, the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames
took upon itself the task of remedying in part this neglect. Consider-
ing samplers to be the primary basis and training school of American
needlework in the early days of the Nation, our associates have col-
lected materials and discussed needlework in this volume.

With the wish to make this work national and not local, an appeal

' for aid was made to our sister societies, which brought prompt and

« generous response. Through their cooperation, this volume contains

contributions from many of the societies of the Colonial Dames in the

CO United States and from many interested friends. The New Jersey

^ Society, through its chairman, Mrs. Trueman Clayton, has furnished

the largest number of descriptions outside of Massachusetts. Mrs.

Clayton worked untiringly, and her descriptions were so clear, not

only in matter but in chirography, that they were a delight to all who

used them.

The late Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett, of Baltimore, had gathered for
Jl the Maryland Dames more than a hundred records of samplers from
that state, which were most welcome, as our collection of Southern
samplers was somewhat meager. The Connecticut and Kansas Socie-
ties, and many others, have responded to the best of their ability.
Mrs. Cyrus Walker, of California, spent one of her summers in
northern Maine, collecting and photographing the samplers she found

In March, 1920, the Rhode Island Historical Society arranged an
exhibit of samplers, partly from a local interest in such things and
partly to aid in the preparation of this book. It was under the direc-
tion of the librarian, Howard M. Chapin, Esq., of Providence, assisted
by a committee of the Society. It was a most successful affair, and



brought together nearly three hundred samplers which would not
otherwise have come to our notice. Mrs. Powel, the acting president
of the Colonial Dames of Rhode Island, contributed to the book de-
scriptions of all the samplers in the exhibition.

In our own Society, Mrs. Edwin A. Daniels, of Boston, collected
a very large number of descriptions.

Mrs. Henry E. Coe, of New York, who has a wonderful collection
of her own, has added a very large number of descriptions, enhanced
by pictures taken with her kodak. Many friends have contributed
pictures, and to them our thanks are due. The Committee wishes that
it could reproduce in the book many more pictures of very real interest
which it has in its archives ; but it has felt, in choosing the illustrations,
that the pictures must be either typical or necessary to bring out some
point under discussion. Therefore, those only have been chosen which
exhibit American types or are interesting historically.

It is believed that there are here reproduced examples of most
of the various stitches and model patterns used in such needlework.
While many American samplers contain only the alphabet and
numerals, with added moral mottoes, yet others display such sense of
artistic feeling and tasteful ornamentation as merit attention.

The book is based upon some twenty-five hundred descriptions of
samplers which have been collected by the Committee and its friends
during the last five years. We have also got together nearly four hun-
dred pictures of samplers that we felt might be especially interesting.
In addition, many other samplers have been seen. The Committee
believes that every book on needlework, ancient and modern, has been
searched in the hope of finding material. Of course, there are many
samplers that are not recorded here, for until one begins the search,
it is impossible to realize how busy the fingers of our young ances-
tresses were. We do feel, however, that we have collected enough to
have a good basis for our assertions.

In order to increase the value of this monograph, it seemed wise
to focus attention on that period in which sampler work was at its best,
and no samplers have been included of later date than 1830.


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Mary Hollingsworth's Sampler. Salem, Mass. Cir. 1665
Owned by the Essex Institute


Sarah Lords 1^68
Owned hn 3/r... Thoma.^ ^innickxon. Jr.


Although this volume comprises the work of many, the successful
consummation of the plan is due to the administrative ability, enthu-
siasm, and ready sympathy of Mrs. Barrett Wendell, President of the
Massachusetts Society of Colonial Dames.

Margaret Woodbridge Cushing,

For the Committee.

Newburyport, Massachusetts,
December, 1920.

Margaret Woodbridge Cushing
Ethel Stanavood Bolton
Georgianna West Perry

" He errs who thinks those hands were set
All spinster-like and cold
Who spelt a scarlet alphabet,
And birds of blue and gold,
And made immortal garden plots
Of daisies and forget-me-nots.

"The bodkins wove an even pace.
Yet these are lyrics too.
Breathing of spectral lawn and lace.

Old ardors to renew;
For in the corners love would keep
His fold among the little sheep."

John Drinkwater, "Samplers.


Prefatory Note

List of Illustrations

Seventeenth Century Samplers

Register of Samplers, 1 GOO- 1700

Eighteenth Century Samplers

Register of Samplers, 1700-1799

Nineteenth Century Samplers

Register of Samplers, 1800-1830

Sampler Verse, Containing a Letter from Barrett Wendell, Esq.

An Anthology of Sampler Verse, 1610-1830

Schools and Schoolmistresses

A List of Early Schools .

Materials, Designs, Stitches

Embroidered Heraldry

Register of Embroidered Arms




















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IsAKKi.iA Ercy's 1675
Oictu'd />(/ Daniel Penton Hitchner, Esq.


Cover. Sarah Bancroft's Sampler

Frontispiece. Loara Standish's Sampler

Plate I. Anne Gower's Sampler

Plate II. Mary Hollingsworth's Sampler

Plate III. Sarah Lord's Sampler

Plate IV. Isabella Ercy's Sampler

Plate V. Elizabeth Robert's lace sampler

Plate VI. Elizabeth Robert's Sampler

Plate VII. Portrait of Elizabeth Robert
Plate VIII. Miles Fletwod Abigal Fletwood
Plate IX. Mary Hudson's Sampler
Plate X. Grace Toy's Sampler
Plate XI. Mary Daintery's Sampler
Plate XII. Mary or Martha Bulyn's Sampler
Plate XIII. Katherine Holden's Sampler
Plate XIV. Hannah Trecothick's Sampler
Plate XV. Mariah Deavenport's Sampler

Mary Parker's Sampler
Plate XVI. Ruth Haskell's Sampler
Plate XVII. Mary Ellis's Sampler
Plate XVIII. Elizabeth Pecker's Sampler

Plate XIX. Dorothy Lynde's Sampler

Plate XX. Mary Webb's Sampler

Plate XXI. Catherine Van Schaick's Sampler

Plate XXII. Sally Rea's Sampler

Plate XXIII. Margaret Calef's Sampler

Plate XXIV. Hannah Johnson's Sampler

Plate XXV. Grace Welsh's Sampler

Plate XXVI. Abigail Mears's Sampler

Plate XXVII. Betsy Adams's Sampler

Plate XXVIII. Sampler by an Unknown Girl

Plate XXIX. Frances Brenton's Sampler

Plate XXX. John Mason's Sampler

Plate XXXI. Rocksalana Willes's Sampler

Plate XXXII. Hannah Janney's Sampler

Plate XXXIII. Ann Buller's Sampler

Plate XXXIV. Margaret Ramsay's Sampler

Plate XXXV. Sally Monro's Sampler

Plate XXXVI. Jane Humphreys' Sampler

Plate XXXVII. Mary Clark's Sampler

Plate XXXVIII. Zebiah Gore's Sampler

Plate XXXIX. Sally Baldwin's Sampler

Plate XL. Loann Smith's Sampler

Plate XLI. Ann Macomber's Sampler

Plate XLI I. Patty Coggeshall's Sampler

Plate XLI 1 1. Lucy Warner's Sampler
Plate XLIV. Mary Traill's Sampler
Plate XLV. Eliza Cozzens's Sampler
Plate XLVI. Lydia Stocker's Sampler

Plate XLVII. Susan Lehman's Sampler
Plate XLVIII. Mary Hamilton's Sampler
Plate XLIX. Clarissa Emerson's Sampler

Plate L. Laura Bowker's Sampler

Plate LI. Lucy D. Stickney's Sampler
Plate LI I. Elizabeth Funk's Sampler
Plate LIII. Sophia Catherine Bier's Sampler
Plate LIV. Maria Lamborn's Sampler
Plate LV. Content Phillips's Sampler
Plate LVI. Sarah Dole's Sampler
Plate LVI I. Sarah Yeakel's Sampler
Plate LVIII. Ann Sophia Beckwith's Sampler
Plate LIX. Nancy Piatt's Sampler
Plate LX. Betty Brierley's Sampler
Plate LXI. Faith Walker's Sampler
Plate LXII. Sarah F. Sweet's Sampler
Plate LXIII. Picture of William and Mary


Sarah: Donna: Leonora: Saunders

Plate LXIV. Emily Clark's Sampler

Plate LXV. Ann Watson's Sampler

Plate LXVI.

Elizabeth Jane Hosmer's Sampler

Plate LXVII. Eliza F. Budd's Sampler

Plate LXVI 1 1.

Sophia Stevens Smith's Sampler

Plate LXIX. Mary Gill's Sampler. Lace sam-
pler by an LInknown Girl
Plate LXX. Elizabeth Ann Goldin's Sampler
Plate LXXI. Frances Wade's Sampler
Plate LXXII. Sarah S. Caldwell's Sampler
Plate LXXII I. Margaret Moss's Sampler

Plate LXXIV. Hannah Loring's Sampler
Plate LXXV. Harriet Jones's Sampler
Plate LXXVI. Lucy P. Wyman's Sampler
Plate LXXVII. Elizabeth Mclntyre's Sampler





Hannah J. Robinson's Sampler

Plate LXXIX. Louisa GauflFreau's Sampler

Plate LXXX.

Mary Ann Fessenden Vinton's Sampler

Plate LXXXI. Eliza Pickets's Sampler

Plate LXXXII. Susan H. Munson's Sampler

Plate LXXXI 1 1. Margaret Kerlin's Sampler

Plate LXXXIV. Fanny Rines's Sampler

Plate LXXXV.

Elizabeth A. Harwood's Sampler

Plate LXXXVL The Down Family Record

Plate LXXXVII. Eliza Crocker's Sampler

Plate LXXXVIII. Sally Shattuck's Sampler

Plate LXXXIX. Nancy Wright's Sampler

Plate XC. Nabby Mason Peele

Plate XCI. Sally Witt's Sampler

Plate XCn. C. Sanderson's Sampler
Plate XCIIL Martha Heuling's Sampler
Plate XCIV. Susana Cox's Sampler
Plate XCV. Lydia Burroughs's Sampler
Plate XCVL Julia Knight's Sampler

Barberry Eagle's Sampler

Plate XCVn. Ann E. Kelly's Sampler


Sarah Catherine MoflFatt Odiorne's Sampler

Plate XCIX. Nancy Hall's Sampler
Plate C. Nancy Winsor's Sampler

Plate CI. Lydia Church's Sampler
Plate CII. Hetty Lees' Sampler

Plate CHI. Caroline Vaughan's Sampler

Plate CIV. Sally Johnson's Sampler

Plate CV. Elizabeth Stevens's Sampler

Plate CVI. Sukey Makepeace's Sampler

Plate CVII. Jane Merritt's Sampler

Plate CVI 1 1. Nancy Baker's Sampler

Plate CIX. Mary Russell's Sampler

Plate ex. Ann Robins's Sampler

Plate CXI. Sarah Howell's Sampler

Ann Tatnall's Sampler
Plate CXII. Abigail Pinniger's Sampler
Ann Almy's Sampler

Plate CXIII. Appha Woodman's Sampler
Plate CXIV. Tryphenia Collins's Sampler
Plate CXV. Patty Kendall Sterling's Sampler
Plate CXVI. Julia Boudinot's Sampler
Plate CXVII. "Indian Pink"
Plate CXVIII. "Strawberries and Acorns"
Plate CXIX. "Rose and Trefoil"
Plate CXX. "Some Sampler Stitches"
Plate CXXI. Hatchment of the Hon. George

Plate CXXII. Hatchment of Governor Thomas

Plate CXXIII. Embroidered Arms of the

Gilbert Family
Plate CXXIV. The Arms of E. Davis

Plate CXXV. Hatchment of the Ives Family
Plate CXXVI. Arms of the Hon. Harrison




THOSE who go fishing for whales in the ocean of the past, some-
times catch only sprats. Unfortunately, this is the result of
fishing in the past for the origin of the sampler. Not only
are sprats the only fish, but they are thin and very few. Just when
samplers began to be worked no one now knows, for aside from a few
rather casual remarks in literature, we have nothing to tell us.

The earliest mention of a sampler so far found is in 1502, when
Elizabeth of York paid 8d. for an ell of linen cloth for one. Her
account book shows the entry on July 10, 1502: "an for an elne of
lynnyn cloth for a sampler for the Queen viii d. To Thomas Fische."
John Skelton, the poet, at about this same time in Norfolk, wrote,
"The Sampler to sowe on, the lacis to embroid."

In 1546, Margaret Thompson, of Freston-in-Holland, Lincoln-
shire, left a will, in which she says, "I gyve to Alys Pynchebeck my
syster's doughter my sawmpler with semes." This last item would
seem to indicate that probably the Tudor sampler, of which we have
no survival, was the same long and very narrow affair that the seven-
teenth century shows. The loom of the day was quite narrow, and
this accounts for the width of the sampler. Thus the "semes" may
mean that several pieces were joined together, or perhaps, as one
writer suggests, the word is used in an obsolete and transferred mean-
ing, and shows that it was made in ordered rows, like the seventeenth
century sampler. Much fine work was done to make beautiful the
"open seam," which the narrow loom rendered necessary.

Certainly toward the middle of the sixteenth century the sampler
was growing in popularity, for an inventory taken in the fourth year
of Edward VI's reign shows:

"Item xii samplers

"Item one sampler of Normandie Canvas wrought with

green and black silk."*

•Harleian Manuscript No. 1419.


The raison d'etre of the sampler is most practical. Needlework
and embroidery were practically the only relaxation of most women,
and almost everything was embroidered. In the seventeenth century
a book called "Needles Excellency"* gives a list of things for which
a sampler was required. They include "handkerchiefs, table cloathes
for parlours or for halls, sheets, towels, napkins, pillow-beares." A
long period of peace had brought luxury to the household in the six-
teenth century. Napery and drapery increased, and along with them
the craze for embroidery. In fact, so great was the craze, that cloth-
ing, household linen, and everything of the sort fell a victim. France
had the same tendency, and in 1586 Catherine de Medici was petitioned
to put a stop to it, on the plea that "mills, pastures, woods and all the
revenues are wasted on embroideries, insertions, trimmings, tassells,
fringes, hangings, gimps, needleworks, small chain stitchings, quilt-
ings, back stitchings, etc., new diversities of which are invented daily."
The need for the sampler lay in the fact that there were few, if any,
books of patterns. Thus the sampler was the pattern-book, and long
or short, contained the designs which appealed to each girl's taste.
So we can imagine that each girl, as she gathered together her linen
for filling one of those lovely old oak dower-chests, added a sampler
to take with her on her new adventure in life.

There have been many surmises as to just how these patterns grew
up in England, and many experts favor the idea that most of them
came from Italy and from other foreign sources. Certainly one did,
for an Italian towel shows the same design as that on Mary Hudson's
sampler. (See Plate ix.)

One book tells us of "a tradition that Catherine of Aragon taught
the Bedfordshire women cut-work or reticella made of linen, an art
which we know to have been practised in Italy and Spain at the time,
and which the early evidences of old English samplers prove to have
been made, though with less taste, in England." t

•"The Needles Excellency. A New Booke wherein are Divers admirable workes wrought with the needle,
newly invented and out in Copper for the pleasure and profit of the industrious. Printed for James Boler and
are to be sold at the Syne of the Marigold in Paules Churchyard. 1632." There were twelve editions before 1640,
but the book is extremely rare.

t " Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire Lace in Point and Pillow Lace," by A. M. S. 1899.


ti...' — . -.;>„jL£.t4^~^


Elizabeth Robert's Sa.aipier. Cir. KUiS
Oxciu'd hji Miss (feorjiidiina Welles Sarcjent


Perhaps our ancestors did have "less taste," but I think there is
no question that needlework on the older English samplers is most
exquisite. The earliest samplers which we know were, as has been said,
very long and narrow. The upper portion was nearly always given
to elaborate running designs in color of conventionalized roses, tulips,
strawberries, trefoil, "Indian pink," the "tree of life," and geometric
designs, either alone or in combination. Sometimes human figures
were inserted, but not often, the famous "boxers" being the most
frequent. The lower half was often filled with lovely drawn- or cut-
work designs in white. Occasionally an alphabet appeared, but in so
subordinate a position that it is quite negligible, and was evidently
included merely as a pattern for marking linen. So the sampler was
really an "Examplar," as some of our modern American specimens
still call it. Some early English references call them "samp-cloths"
or "samplettes."

A great deal of stress has of late been laid upon the affiliation of
the sampler and the horn-book, but it seems as if the horn-book, if it
had any influence upon the sampler at all, was distinctly toward its
degeneration. Certainly the seventeenth century sampler shows not
the slightest influence of the horn-book, for it was not until the early
eighteenth century that the dismal sampler, containing merely rows
of alphabet, appeared at all.

But to return to the Tudor sampler, which lives only in our
imagination, it is interesting to know that Sir Philip Sydney, in his
"Arcadia," wrote:

"O love, why dost thou in thy beautiful sampler set such a work for my desire,
to set out which is impossible?"

and that Shakespeare, in the "Midsummer Night's Dream," makes
Helena exclaim :

"We, Hermia, like two artificial Gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion."

Shakespeare certainly reflected the state of mind of the children of
a later date, who were doomed by stern schoolmistresses to sew on
samplers, when he says :


" Fair Philomela, she but lost her tongue,
And in a tedious sampler sew'd her mind." *

(Titus Andronicus)

\ These first samplers had no names or dates upon them, for prob-
abh^ they were a continuous performance, and so could never be dated.
The early ones were kept on a roll as a convenience, for one English
sampler done in 1664, while but seven inches wide, was three feet long.
i The old samplers were always on linen, and were not done by children,
but by girls and women, for very practical use. The earliest appear
to be entirely of lace or drawn-work. Of seventeenth century sam-
plers, it may also be said that the needlework in itself was more
beautiful and the design more intricate and definite. One English
writer goes so far as to say that the oldest were the best and the young-
est the worst. That would not be entirely true of American samplers.
As the sampler grew out of the lack of books on embroidery,
it is interesting to know that there was a progressive soul, one
Peter Quentel, who printed a book of patterns as early as 1527. No
copy exists, so far as is known; but in 1701 a similar book "gives
borders and corner pieces, some few of which, at least, are derived from
those included in the book of patterns for various kinds of needlework
published by Peter Quentel." The ubiquitous Germans also printed
a book in Nuremberg, in 1748.

There has been an amusing controversy between English and
American collectors as to which nation ownied the oldest dated sampler.
These many years we have held the palm, for Anne Gower's sampler
is in the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts. Now Anne Gower
became the wife of Governor Endecott before 1628; and while it was
embroidered, of course, in England, the sampler itself was here, and
we claimed it as American. The English connoisseurs date it at
about 1610. There is one other American claimant earlier than
the earliest English one of 1643; this is Loara Standish's, now in
Pilgrim Hall at Plymouth. Loara Standish, the daughter of Captain
Myles Standish, was born in 1623 and died before 1656. It is prob-
able that the sampler was made before she was twenty, so that it was

* This verse is on the sampler of Anne Hathaway, 1797.


done before or at nearly the same time as the punto in aria sampler
of Elizabeth Hinde, in 1643. This latter sampler would be more
convincing if the name and date were not on finer linen sewed to the

Anne Gower's sampler was, of course, done in England, and is a
good specimen of drawn-work, filet, and the flat white-stitch used
on damask. So it is to Loara Standish's sampler that we must turn
for our earliest American-made example. It is in the regular English
style, done in blues and browns, soft now with time. The designs are
intricate and beautifully done. Our Loara, besides making the first
American sampler, worked upon it the first aphorism which appears
upon any sampler. She began, poor Pilgrim maid, that long line of
pious verse that decorates, even unto the end, both English and
American samplers.

"Lord Guide my Heart that I may do Thy Will
And fill my heart with such convenient skill
As will conduce to Virtue void of Shame
And I will give the Glory to Thy Name."

She worked upon her sampler, also, "Loara Standish is my name,"
and so was the forerunner of that long series of girls who so indicated
the work of their hands. Evidently she did not know the whole verse
as it later came into use.

New England was the home of all but one of the seventeenth
century samplers that have so far been reported. The next oldest
after Loara Standish's was made by Mary Hollingsworth, of Salem.
She was born in 1650 and married, in 1675, Phillip English, a Salem
merchant. Her sampler, probably made about 1665, is typical of
the time, but bears an alphabet and her name. Mary Hollingsworth
English was accused of witchcraft in 1692, but escaped with her life
to New York. She was so overcome by the shock of the accusation
that she died soon after her escape.

At about the same time another New England maid, Sarah Lord,
made a lovely sampler in 1668. It is of extremely fine needlework,
and shows a tendency, which was apparently developing in America,
toward shorter and broader samplers. The workmanship had not


degenerated as yet, nor had the patterns, but there are fewer of them.
Sarah Lord made one pattern upon her sampler in which the petals
of the roses are raised and free from the groundwork, done in button-
hole-stitch. Some English samplers of the same time show this form
of work, in the raised draperies of ladies' dresses and men's coats.

Only two other American seventeenth century samplers have been
reported, and both, perhaps, may be questioned. The first, done in
1675 by Isabella Ercy, is very attractive, though it shows the tend-
ency toward less interesting and less elaborate design. It bears the
inscription :

"WORKE. ANd. LETTERd. 1676

The owner of this sampler frankly acknowledges that he does not
know who Isabella Ercy was, and so we cannot be sure that it is really
American after all.

The other sampler bears no name, but has the date 1698. It is
long and narrow and is done in crewel in brilliant hues, which is not
an especially common medium for either English or American sam-
plers of the period.

It is impossible to call this chapter complete without mentioning

Online LibraryEthel Stanwood BoltonAmerican samplers → online text (page 1 of 45)