Ten-year-old Esther Copp of Stonington, Connecticut, embroidered this decorative linen sampler to demonstrate her sewing skills. The design includes alphabets and numbers, flowery motifs, and a proverb from the Bible: “Better it is to be of an humble Spirit with the lowly than to divide the Spoil with the proud.”
For young girls in early America, needlework was not a hobby but a necessary skill they were expected to master along with other domestic duties.
Teddy Bear, around 1903
This is one of the earliest teddy bears, created by a Brooklyn candy store owner who went on to form the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company. Named after a president and inspired by an editorial cartoon, this beloved childhood companion has a political history all its own.
In 1902, Washington Post cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a captured bear offered up as a hunting trophy. The bear became a regular figure in Berryman’s cartoons, serving as a fuzzy, cuddly foil for the brawny president.
Tin Toy, 1862
This jaunty horse-drawn carriage was presented to a little girl in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War.
When wound with a key, a clockwork mechanism inside the toy turns the back wheels and sends the carriage on its way. The Connecticut manufacturer, George W. Brown & Co., was famous for producing a variety of windup tin toys during the mid-1800s.
Baby Bonnet, around 1920
Ng Shee Lee, a Chinese immigrant living in New York’s Chinatown, made this silk bonnet for her American-born son Peter.
Caps like this one are traditionally worn by Chinese boys after their first birthday. With its furry ears, the bonnet is meant to resemble the head of a dog, a disguise to protect the child from evil spirits.