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.
- Below family record, pyramidal monument (memorial to deceased sister) flanked by rosebushes and butterflies, under weeping willow tree, on ground-line worked in "crinkled" silk. To left of monument, verse in square outline, all lettering black. Border of geometric flowering vine on all four sides. Silk embroidery thread on linen ground. STITCHES: cross, crosslet, satin, stem. THREAD COUNT: warp 28, weft 31/in.
- "A Family Reccord
Nathaniel and Margaret Pof[s]ey
The Parent's of thof[s]e Children
SoPhia Maria Pof[s]ey born Oct 8th 1813
Fredrick Jerome Pof[s]ey born Feb 28 1815
Margaret Pof[s]ey born Dec 19th 1816
John Pittf[s] Pof[s]ey born Oct 12 1818
Mary Jane Pof[s]ey born Dec 3d 1820
Hester Ann Pof[s]ey born Dec 28 1822
Nathaniel Boliver Pof[s]ey born April 11 1827
Henry Clay Pof[s]ey born Aug 14 1829"
- To left of monument in square:
- "Weep not my frien
df[s]. af[s] you paff[ss] by.
af[s] you are now. f[s]o
once Waf[s] I. af[s] i
am now. So you
muf[s]t be. prepare
to meet me in
- Embroidered on the monument are the following words:
to The -
Who died Feb 2
A.D. 1824 aged 8 YS
1 Month and 14 days
- Below monument:
"Hester. Ann. Poseyf[s] Sampler Finished in the 15.th
year of her age. A.D. 1837."
- Hester was born on December 28, 1822, to Nathaniel and Margaret Posey. Nathaniel and Margaret Kemp were married on October 9, 1812, in Frederick, Maryland. Hester was a teacher and did not marry.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Posey, Hester Ann
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center