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 with no "J" or "U" with each letter in alphabets and each word in inscription different color. Ten narrow decorative crossbands, three wide crossbands, and narrow geometric crossbands separating these and lettered rows; last crossband has row of strawberry(?) motifs against background solidly filled with cross stitches and first nine letters of lower-case alphabet. All four edges hemstitched with yellow silk thread. Wool and silk embroidery thread on linen ground. STITCHES: cross, two-sided cross, eyelet, marking cross, gobelin, satin, tent (petit-point), hem. THREAD COUNT: warp 46, weft 43/in.
- "LYDIA DIC
KMaN IS MY NAMe AND ENGL
AND IS MY NATION aND BOST
ON IS MY DWeLLING PlaC aND
CHRIST IS MY SALVATION DON
e IN THIRTeeN YeAR OF MY
- Lydia was born about 1722, and married Francis Shaw of Boston, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1745. They had one son, Thomas, who was born December 11, 1745. Lydia died in Boston on December 26, 1746, just a year after the birth of her son.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Dickman, Lydia
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center