National Museum of American History Acquires 18th-Century Sampler

July 13, 2008
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History acquired an embroidered sampler made in 1781 by Elizabeth “Betsy” Bucklin from Rhode Island. Bucklin was 13 years old when she made the unique sampler where she expressed her feelings about the American Revolution.

The sampler features a manor in the center that is surrounded by birds, trees, people, vines and flowers. Below the manor, in two columns, are the words that make this sampler unique: “While hostile foes/our coasts Invade/In all the pomp of/war arrayd Ameri/cans be not dismayd/nor fear the sword or Gun. While Innocence is/all our pride and vir/tue is our only Guide/Women would scorn/to be defyd if led by/WASHINGTON.”

During the 18th century, very few American samplers openly defied the British and displayed the blatant patriotism and nationalistic qualities that Bucklin’s does. In addition, a direct reference to Gen. George Washington is not common in a sampler from this period.

“The addition of this unique sampler to our collection allows us to examine the opinions of Americans toward the British during the American Revolution,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “This is an important piece of American history that shows how the war affected the everyday person.”

Bucklin’s sampler is embroidered with silk thread on linen fabric, it is framed and its sight size is 15 3/4 inches by 12 1/2 inches. According to Betty Ring, author of “Let Virtue Be a Guide to Thee,” the sampler was probably made at L. Mary Balch’s school, a teacher in Providence, R.I. The sampler will be preserved in the textile collection at the museum, and the public will be able to view the sampler at the museum’s Web site. The museum currently has a collection of about 140 American samplers. Of these, 28 are from the 18th century.

The museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in fall 2008. For information about the museum, please visit http://americanhistory.si.edu or call Smithsonian Information at (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).