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.
- Block alphabet no "J." Each letter worked in different color. Letters in row, initials for family members "HKAKR / PKAKMKSKBKAKBWW," "R" that should go with last "W" out of order. Each pair of letters worked in different color, six sets being worked in black. These rows separated by simple crossbands. In center section, flanking one of verses, two large flowers, and initials "SK," "SK," "SK," "IK," "IW," and "RW" split with one on each side of flower. Below verse, wide crossband with flowers and strawberries. Another wide crossband at bottom of sampler, with two large flowers and urn of flowers. Border of geometric vine with strawberries and carnations on all four sides. Silk embroidery thread on linen ground. STITCHES: cross, satin, tent, eyelet, stem. THREAD COUNT: warp 28, weft 30/in.
- "Love the Lord
And he will be
A tender father
- The lof[s]s of treaf[s]uref[s] much
The lof[s]s of truth is more
The lof[s]s of Chrif[s]t if[s] f[s]uch
Af[s] no one can ref[s]tore
- The lot of f[s]aintf[s] have alway been
Affliction here and f[s]cornf[s]
And he that was the bef[s]t of men
Waf[s] mock and crown with thornf[s]
- Rachel Kester her samPler
made in the 14th year of her age
1788 H T"
- Rachel was born on June 16, 1774, to Paul and Anna Webster Kester in Kingwood, New Jersey. The family moved to Millville, Pennsylvania, in 1780. There Rachel married Chandlee Eves on January 5, 1797, and they had ten children—Anna, Elizabeth, Yeatman, John K., George Fox, Benjamin, Charles, Sarah, Rachel, and Chandlee. Rachel died in Pennsylvania on May 22, 1835, and her husband died on December 30, 1836. The initials "HT" following the date in the inscription could be those of a teacher.
- The first set of initials are her grandparents Heranus and Anne Kester; her parents Paul and Anna Kester; her siblings Mary, Sarah, Benjamin, and Arnold Kester; and her grandparents Benjamin and Rachel Webster. It is not clear to whom the other initials belong.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- Kester, Rachel
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center