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.
- In center, urn surrounded by wreath and flanked by words of inscription. Around center panel, on all four sides, eight geometric borders. Silk thread on cotton ground. STITCHES: -cross, satin, stem, herringbone, triple herringbone, fishbone, pulled thread, open chain variation. THREAD COUNT: warp 59 weft 47/in.
- Over the urn in the center panel:
flanking the urn and wreath in the center panel:
"LO HIZO CATA-
D DA AM
EZ EN LA
ACADEMIA DE PUERTO RICO A 21 DE MA-
YO DE 1836
Y SELO DEDY
CA A SU PA-
SIA Y APLI-
CON LA ESPE
EGARA A CON"
The translation of the inscription is "Long Live Isabel II. This was made by Catalina Mason student of Mrs. Ambrosia Martin in the year of 1836 in the academy of Puerto Rico on the 21st of May Dedicated to her father Courage, Perseverance, and Diligence with experience to arrive to know."
- Catalina Juliana was born on June 19, 1823, to Sidney and Maria Benito Dorado Mason, in St. Johns, Puerto Rico. Catalina's father was American consul in St. Johns from 1829 to 1835. Desiring to educate his children in his native land, Mr. Mason brought his family to the United States in one of his own sailing vessels. After arrival in Baltimore, they were taken to Gloucester, Massachusetts. His wife soon succumbed to the rigors of the climate and died on September 14, 1835. On the death of his wife, Mr. Mason gave up all business interests and set forth on an extended tour of Europe. Before departing, he traveled to Puerto Rico one more time and took Catalina with him. She stitched her sampler during this stay in Puerto Rico. When they returned, he placed Catalina at Miss Emma Willard's boarding school for girls in Troy, New York.
- Recalled from Europe by the death of his son on Dec 25, 1839, he took up residence in New York, and Catalina finished her school days with the Misses McClennachan. She married Theodorus Bailey Myers in 1847, and they had two children, Theodorus Bailey and Cassie Mason. She and her husband made many trips to Europe, and she was known to have paid a visit to the famous dressmaker, Worth. Her niece admired her hands, saying "They were not ornamental only, for they could sew and embroider beautifully, and do all sorts of fine worsted work." Catalina died on August 27, 1905. See also Catalina Mason's map sampler.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Mason, Catalina Juliana
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center