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 upper-case alphabets, no "J," alternate colors. One block lower-case alphabet of alternate colors. Numbers 1 through 9. One crown. Satin-stitched sawtooth crossband; one crossband worked in Irish stitch, also basket and two large diamonds in lower half. Two weeping willow trees, each with bird in its top, and three boxes, one containing verse and two containing maker's name and date and group of initials. Box on right side contains initials "WB," "CB," "JS," and "EJ." Box on left side contains initials "WB," "LB," "WP," "EP," "NU," "CU," "WB," "EB," 'SB," "MB," "LP," and "LU" as well as "Rebecca Ballinger 1830." Strawberry border. Silk embroidery thread on linen ground. STITCHES: cross, Algerian eye, satin, rice, Irish, queen, crosslet, long-armed cross, gobelin. THREAD COUNT: warp 24, weft 34/in.
- "In thy fair book of life divine
My, god, incribe [sic] my name
There, let it fill some humble place
Beneath the slaughter'd Lamb"
- Rebecca was born on March 22, 1814, to William and Lydia Smith Ballinger in Pipe Creek, Maryland. The family moved to Ohio in 1819, and Rebecca stitched her sampler under the tutelage of Ann Thorn in Jefferson County. The initials on her sampler are of her grandparents, brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, and two nieces who died in infancy. The initials in black are family members who had died by the time she stitched her sampler. Rebecca married Thomas H. Terrell as his second wife on April 22, 1863.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Ballinger, Rebecca
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center