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.
- This sampler features two script alphabets to “X,” and there are also two block alphabets: one with 26 letters and one to “W” with “NOPQ” not worked but a space left for them. At the bottom of the sampler, is a two-story house (in perspective) with a tall pointed tree and a spreading tree behind an ornamental fence, which has reverse-curved sections between fence-posts topped by urns. The house on Diana Austin’s sampler could be her home or the home of her teacher. She showed advanced technique by using surface stitches for her trees and not cross stitch. Diana included the inscription:
“Diana Austins Sampler
Marked AD 1827 Aged 8
- The sampler is stitched with silk embroidery thread on a linen ground with a thread count of warp 39, weft 46/ in. The stitches used are cross, detached chain, four-sided, Algerian eye, buttonhole, outline, and satin.
- Jotham Austin married Hannah Case as his second wife on August 25, 1817, in Franklin, Vermont. At some point they moved to Penfield, New York, where Jotham died in March 1830 and Hannah died on May 11, 1830. They had two children - Diana (b. May 9, 1819) and Sabrina P. (b. March 13, 1824). Libbeus Ross, who was married to Hannah’s step-daughter Honoria Austin, was appointed guardian of the family according to Hannah’s will, dated March 15, 1830.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Austin, Diana
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center