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.
- Large cornucopia of flowers and leaves above verse, with geometric carnation border. Flowers include morning glory, moss rose, sweet peas, and lily. Brown guidelines under cornucopia and flowers. Maker's age and date written in ink, probably added later. Silk embroidery thread on linen ground. STITCHES: Cross, crosslet, herringbone. THREAD COUNT: warp 30, weft 28/in.
- "The star of Bethlehem
Brighter than the rising day
When the sun of glory shines;
Brighter than the diamond's ray
Sparkling in Golonda's [sic] mines
Beaming through the clouds of wo
Smiles in Mercy's diadem
On the guilty world below
The Star that rose in Bethlehem
written in ink after the inscription is "1833 Age 9"
- Elizabeth was born about 1825 to Sarah and Thomas Orme in Washington, D.C. She married James Hizer on September 6, 1854, but by the 1860 census, she was widowed and living with her mother and sister Anna, who was also a widow. Elizabeth died in 1892 of tuberculosis. See her mother's (Sarah Kurtz) sampler. Anna's daughter Mary donated her grandmother's and aunt's samplers.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- associated dates
- 1933 06 22
- Orme, Elizabeth
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center