Knowing how much I love samplers, fellow needleworker Leslie invited me to visit the Ohio Historical Society’s collections facility where she volunteers for Cliff. My two friends showed me some tremendous examples of these historic artifacts that helped girls learn how to sew.
As I approached the row of tall yellow storage cabinets, I expected that I’d see some inspiring treasures. But when Leslie began opening the narrow drawers and revealing rows of exquisite, Mylar-encapsulated 19th century samplers, I knew I’d need some time to settle down afterwards.
First, Leslie shared two samplers worked by Mary Ann Edmondson as a young girl. Mary Ann was born in 1824 in Dayton, Ohio and was trained in plain and ornamental sewing at The Waynesville School.
First, we looked at a sampler that the ten-year-old Quaker stitched in 1834. Worked on linen using silk threads in varying stitches, the sampler (H 5946) features letters of the alphabet, numbers, flowers, fruit and vegetables in baskets, flowering plants, a brick house, butterflies, birds, chickens and trees. A rosebud vine borders the sampler on three sides. The initials A.F. E.F. may be those of Mary Ann’s teachers. The sampler measures 44 by 45 cm. To take a closer look at the sampler, click here.
This sampler was featured in Sue Studebaker’s Ohio Is My Dwelling Place: Schoolgirl Embroideries, 1800-1850 (Ohio University Press, 2002), a fine book that accompanied an equally outstanding exhibit of the same name at the Decorative Arts Center in Lancaster in 2003. Both efforts earned Mrs. Studebaker the Ohioana Citation Award for Historic Preservation of the Decorative Arts in 2005.
According to Mrs. Studebaker, the “W” on the basket on the right side of the sampler indicated that Mary Ann attended the Waynesville School. The “W” basket has five shaded pieces of fruit on the bottom layer, three more shaded pieces of fruit piled on the top, four leaves sticking out, curved handles, and a “W” worked into the basket.
Then, we admired a miniature sampler featuring flowers, birds and Mary Ann’s initials that was also stitched in 1834 (H 51153). Measuring 7.5 by 6 cm, the blue and tan sampler was worked on fine-gauge silk. Leslie said that it inspired a kit that was sold by the Ohio Historical Society in the 1980s. Mary Ann married Rev. Daniel R. Biddlecombe in 1842. To see a tintype of Mary Ann when she was approximately 28 years old in the late 1850s, click here.
Matilda Preston Olney made this tan, brown and pink sampler in 1859, when she was 65. Using silk threads on linen, Matilda decorated her sampler with eight-point stars, an alphabet, a book, a ship, a house and animals. The sampler (H 18197) measures 38 by 42 cm and has a green cross-stitch border.
Next came a fancy-work sampler made by Mathilde Naebig Nano in 1868 at a school in Hamburg, Germany. Measuring 30.5 cm square, the sampler is worked in red cotton on linen. It features seven alphabets and a striped border. In 1930, Mrs. Natho –living in Columbus by then – donated the sampler to the Society. Mathilde’s sister, Auguste Naebig, also created a fancy-work sampler in red cotton on linen at a Hamburg, Germany school. Auguste’s sampler features five alphabets and was made in 1861.
Darning samplers were created as reference tools to be used when a sewer needed to work on her chores, such as making and mending garments and hemming and marking household linens. This sampler of 10 darning and mending examples (H 51154) also came from Germany. Made between 1825 and 1850, it measures 37.5 cm square and is executed in red silk on linen.
In 1840, Eveline Amanda McCrea of Circleville, Ohio made this sampler (H 20047). Worked in shades of brown, green, pink and black silk on dark brown linen, this sampler has a floral border and also includes two mottoes: “Wisdom and Virtue never fade” and “Industry & Virtue promote happiness.” It measures 45.7 by 39.4 cm.
We also looked at a sampler that was made between 1825 and 1850. Measuring 23 by 27.5 cm, the sampler (H 74543) was worked on linen in red and green wool and features the alphabet, numbers, flowers and a house.
It also includes this verse:
“Now blest the maid whom circling years improve
Her God the object of her warmest love
Whose useful hours successive as they glide
The book the needle and the Pen divide
Who sees her Parents heart exult with joy
And the fond tear stands sparling in their eye
When youth’s soft seasons shall be oer
And scenes of childhood Please no more
With joy my riper years shall see
This proof of youthful industry”
Eliza P. Rodgers created this sampler in 1830, in Racine (Meigs County, Ohio). Made of linen and white, black, pink and blue silk, the sampler has a floral border along the top and bottom edges and a black zigzag border down both sides. The top row of text is an uppercase alphabet from the letter “A” through the letter “N.” The second row is the letter “M” through the letter “Z.” The third row down is a lowercase alphabet from the letter “a” to the letter “t.” On the fourth row down are the letters “u” through “z,” as well as the ten Arabic numerals. The next three rows are an uppercase cursive-style alphabet. The bottom panel of the sampler features five different flower graphics, including upside-down tulips. The sampler (H 43651) measures 42 by 27 cm.
Measuring 61 by 72.4 cm, the sampler dates from around 1821. It is embroidered with green, blue, tan, ivory, and white silk floss on handspun linen. The stitches Eliza used in the sampler are running stitch, stem and chain stitch. Animals, birds, flowers, buds, leaves and butterflies decorate the ground.
A note in the collection file indicates that when Eliza was 18, she danced with General Lafayette at a ball in Virginia. The year in which the sampler was completed was picked out since Eliza did not want her current suitor to know how old she was.
Samplers weren’t all that I saw. Leslie also pulled some paper doll clothes handmade by Hope Turner of Marietta, Ohio circa 1893-1895. Patterned after clothing designs from Harper’s Bazaar and made of crepe paper, this fashionable wardrobe of over 40 pieces includes a puff-sleeved cape with ruffled cuffs; a winter dress with a tiered skirt and brown velvet trim; a summer dress with a sailor collar; a bathing costume with blue pants and a bow; a brimmed hat decorated with feathers and ribbons; a hip-length jacket with leg-o’mutton sleeves; and a suit with fur trim and a gold pin and a ruff. Some garments are decorated with pieces of doilies and eyelet trims; others are embellished with motifs executed with watercolors and ink drawings. Two paper dolls wearing modest undergarments and black stockings complete the set.