The earliest known American sampler was made by Loara Standish of the Plymouth Colony about 1645. By the 1700s, samplers depicting alphabets and numerals were worked by young women to learn the basic needlework skills needed to operate the family household. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, schools or academies for well-to-do young women flourished, and more elaborate pieces with decorative motifs such as verses, flowers, houses, religious, pastoral, and/or mourning scenes were being stitched. The parents of these young women proudly displayed their embroideries as showpieces of their work, talent, and status.
In recent years, samplers have become important in museum collections as representations of early American female education. Many are signed, and some are inscribed with locations and the names of teachers and schools. The emergence of large numbers of these samplers has resulted in much research in diaries, account books, letters, newspaper ads, local histories, and published commentary that is helping to illuminate the lives of women in early America.
Many early samplers do not have the letters “J” and “U” in their alphabets because they were not part of the early Latin alphabet and so the letter “I” was used for “J” and the “V” for “U.” The letter “s” is often replaced with the printers “s” which looks like the modern f.
There are 137 American samplers in the Textile Collection. The first was donated in 1886, the Margaret Dinsmoor sampler. In the 1890s the Copp Collection was received and it contained two samplers—one by Esther Copp and the other by her great niece Phebe Esther Copp. (The Copp Collection is an extensive collection of 18th-and 19th- century household textiles, costume items, furniture, and other pieces belonging to the Copps, a prosperous but frugal Connecticut family.) The earliest dated sampler in the collection was made in 1735 by Lydia Dickman of Boston, Massachusetts.
"American Samplers - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- Two block alphabets; letters colored alternately; no "J" or "U." Numbers to 9. All rows (including verse) separated by wide and narrow crossbands, many satin-stitched sawtooth bands. At base of sampler, spies returning from Canaan (Caleb and Joshua), wearing flared coats, wide hats, and kneebreeches, and carrying bunch of grapes on pole; letters "C" and "I" identify them, and over their heads further notation "NVMBERS C 13 V 23"; flanked by tulip plants in baskets and small trees. Border of geometric vine-and-flower on top and two sides. Silk embroidery thread on linen ground. STITCHES: cross, satin, fern, eyelet, outline, stem, straight. THREAD COUNT: warp 50, weft 50/in.
- "MY GOD I NEVER LONG'D TO SEE MY FATE WI
TH CVRIOVS EYES WHAT GLOOMY LINES AR
E WRIT FOR ME OR WHAT BRIGHT SCENES
SHALL RISE IN THY FAIR BOOK OF LIFE & GRA
CE MAY I BVT FIND MY NAME RECORDED IN SOM
E HVMBLE PLACE BENEATH MY LORD THE L
- RVTH LEMMON HER SAMPLER WORKED IN
THE 13 YEAR OF HER AGE 1760"
- Ruth was born on December 27, 1747, to Joseph and Hannah Lemmon in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She married John D. Prentice on January 11, 1770, in Marblehead, and they had one daughter, Ruth, born in 1770. Later they moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire, where her husband was a lawyer and New Hampshire Attorney General from 1787 to 1793. Mrs. Prentice died in 1791 in New Hampshire, and John married Tabitha Sargent in 1793.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Lemmon, Ruth
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center