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By the late 19th century, collectors recognized the charm of American schoolgirl samplers. This interest partially arose from the Centennial celebrations and from the Colonial Revival movement. It was not until the 20th century that the substantial collections and subsequent reserch resulted in the growth of auctions, exhibitions and a revolving list of needlework historians, scholars and professionals. There are two 20th-century sources that will forever be associated with the study of American samplers and silk embroideries. One reflects the remarkble accomplishments of an organization, while the other is the devoted scholarly work of an individual.

Bolton and Coe

Bolton and Coe

In 1921 the Massachusetts Society of Colonial Dames published a survey of 2500 samplers and well over 300 illustrations in a book, "American Samplers," by the authors Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe. It is a classic reference and known simply as "Bolton & Coe." Bolton & Coe is still consulted each time an unknown sampler surfaces. Here are six samplers from the DAR museum collection that were published by Bolton and Coe.
Silk on linen

Silk on linen

Sampler, May 3, 1796 / Phebe Hughes / Providence, Rhode Island / Silk on linen. Seven-year-old Phebe Hughes was the daughter of Welthian Greene and Thomas Hughes, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and original member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Her sadly prophetic verse is taken from "Rosamond, An Opera" by Joseph Addison (1672-1719): "When tides of youthful blood run high/And scenes of greatest joy are nigh/Health presuming beauty blooming/Oh how dreadful tis to die." Phebe married Jeremiah Greene in 1809, but died six years later at twenty-eight shortly after the death of her four-month old son. The Massachusetts Society of Colonial Dames provided their original survey sheet as a courtesy to the DAR when Phebe Hughes’sampler was donated by Miss Mary Anne Greene in 1926, four years after the publication of "American Samplers." (Gift of Mary Anne Greene)
Rosena Diament Sampler

Rosena Diament Sampler

Sampler, 1801 / Rosena Diament / Cumberland County, New Jersey / Silk on linen. Rosena Diament stitched her birth date, January 11, 1793 and dated her sampler "in the 9th year of her age 1801." Her sampler bears many characteristics of Salem and Cumberland County needlework, particularly the small "open-weave" baskets, strawberry crosses, and the verse to virtue. Rosena married Isaac Preston Foster in 1816 and died two weeks after her 79th birthday in 1872. (Gift of Mrs. James C. Dunn, great-great granddaughter of Rosena Diament)
Lydia Russell

Lydia Russell

Family Record, about 1809 / Lydia Russell / Possibly Miss Gill’s Academy / West Cambridge, Massachusetts / Silk, watercolor, and ink on silk. Few family records can match the beauty of Lydia Russell’s Tree of Life, copied after a published print. Lydia was born in 1791 and named for a sister who died only months earlier. Using orange apples for girls and blue for boys, she has listed her siblings on the family tree. Although she has meticulously listed birth dates, we have learned little more about her family. (Friends of the Museum Purchase)
Sarah W. Rowand

Sarah W. Rowand

Sampler, 1810 / Sarah W. Rowand / Southampton, Burlington, New Jersey / Silk on linen.Sarah Wills Rowand was the oldest of eight children born to Lettice Wills and William Rowand of Southampton, Burlington, New Jersey. She never married, and according to the census, appears to have lived all her life in Burlington. The 1880 census lists her at 83 as head of a household that included three spinster sisters aged 70, 74, and 79, as well as a young servant boy. Her wonderful marking and pictorial sampler suggests instruction under Quaker tutelage. (Gift of Mrs. Fred W. Holt in memory of Mary Woodward Budd)
Hector Taking Leave of Andromache

Hector Taking Leave of Andromache

"Hector Taking Leave of Andromache," about 1800 / Katharine Wallace / Elizabeth Montgomery’s "Ladies English, Sewing, and Drawing School" / Wilmington, Delaware / Silk, gold metallic thread, and watercolor on silk. Katharine Wallace was sixteen when she worked this scene from "The Iliad" so popular then with girlish needleworkers. Katharine was the daughter of Samuel and Nancy Graeme Wallace of Wilmington. She married Thomas Jaquette in Christiana Ferry, New Castle, Delaware in 1820, and was the mother of three children. The 1814 Wilmington Directory lists Miss Montgomery’s school at 185 Market Street, one of many schools in Wilmington at this time. (Gift of M. Louise Jaquette, cousin from Jaquette family)
Abigail Combs

Abigail Combs

Sampler, 1820 / Abigail Combs / Ohio or New Jersey / Silk on linen. When the donor purchased this sampler, it was labeled "Ohio needlework." A search for the owner listed in Bolton & Coe revealed she was a New Jersey resident in the 1920s. Since the sampler’s Quaker-inspired designs could easily be New Jersey or Ohio, it is best to withhold judgment. It is hoped that ongoing research will connect the stitched initials with Abigail and/or the original owner. (Gift of Rolfe T. Teague)
Lydia Walter

Lydia Walter

Sampler, 1775 / Lydia Walter / Philadelphia / Silk and wool on linen. Lydia Walter was a Quaker who combined marking letters and distinctive designs in this small sampler. It is signed "MW" and "L/W/G, 1775." The name "Walter" appears frequently in Chester County and Philadelphia Monthly Meeting records. A Lydia Walter’s death is recorded in Chester County in 1830. Betty Ring was the first to point out that the half medallions on this sampler were the earliest known in American needlework and she published this observation in "Girlhood Embroidery," Vol.2, p. 292. (Gift of Josephine M. Cathcart, great-great granddaughter of Lydia Walter)
Betty Ring

Betty Ring

As a twentieth century needlework historian, no one can approach Betty Ring’s accomplishments. As a tireless and thorough researcher, she has written not only about samplers and embroideries, but about the lives of the makers and their teachers, placing all within a geographical and social context. Her publication list is long, and her beautifully illustrated two-volume "Girlhood Embroidery" is an essential reference. This internationally known scholar has generously shared her knowledge with individuals, museums, and collectors. The DAR Museum files contain many of her responses to questions posed over the years by the curatorial staff. Here are three examples.
Hannah Wallis Needlework picture

Hannah Wallis Needlework picture

Needlework picture, about 1799 / Hannah Wallis / The Folwell School, Philadelphia / Silk and watercolor on silk. In 1987 Hannah Wallis’s silk embroidery joined her mother’s sampler given to the DAR Museum over sixty years earlier. Lydia Hollingsworth and Samuel Wallis, parents of Hannah Wallis, also sent their daughter to the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia. Hannah married William Miller in 1816 and died in 1859. Betty Ring was the first to publish this needlework picture in "Girlhood Embroidery," Vol 2, p. 379. Mrs. Ring has made an extensive study of 18th and 19th century frames, and pointed out the rarity of this 18th century frame with its sanded gold mat. (Gift of Mary Isham Keith Corresponding Docents in honor of Mrs. Thomas Bachner, purchased from the great-great granddaughters of Hannah Wallis)
Family Record, about 1837

Family Record, about 1837

Family Record, about 1837 / Probably child of the Hay family / Mary Rea’s School, Portland, Maine / Oil and silk on linen; watercolor and typeset on silk. This unusual needlework is a multi-media achievement and a record of the Hay family and their grandparents. It is also a landscape and architectural needlework picture with contemporary buildings authentic to Portland, Providence, and Boston drawn on the silk background. For many years Betty Ring conducted extensive research on Portland, Maine needlework, including the Rea school. Her efforts to verify the architectural identifications of the Hay needlework was extremely important to the museum. She published her findings in a definitive article, "Samplers and Silk Embroideries of Portland, Maine," The Magazine Antiques 134, no. 3, September 1988. (Friends of the Museum Purchase)
At the DAR

At the DAR

The Secretary of the DAR Museum in a letter dated January 15, 1940 mentioned "our first special exhibition Samplers." At that time the museum owned about seventy samplers and silk embroideries. The two samplers shown here illustrate the results an dimportance of ongoing curatorial research that has greatly expanded our knowledge of the DAR needlework collection.
Catharine Manson

Catharine Manson

Sampler, about 1811 / Catharine Manson / Limerick, Maine / Silk and cotton on linen. No documentation was available for the sampler except for an entry in the 1925 Accession Book stating the sampler was made at age 7 in 1781. However, 2006 research revealed that Limerick was not incorporated until 1787. A recent publication, "Early Families of Limerick, Maine" lists a Catherine Manson, born in 1804, and married in 1823 to David Staples. The donor was the daughter of the Rev. Loring T. Staples, who was born in 1830. (Gift of Mrs. Elva Staples Lougee, granddaughter of Catharine Manson)
Sampler, early to mid-19th century

Sampler, early to mid-19th century

Sampler, early to mid-19th century / Probably Rachel Ruggles Warner / Connecticut or New York / Silk and cotton on linen. In February 1924, the donor wrote "I am sending today by mail a few relics belonging to my ancestors for the museum." This petite sampler was among her donations, and was said to have belonged to Solomon Warner (c.1761-1839) and his wife Rachel Ruggles (c. 1764-1834). Solomon Warner served in the Revolution, married Rachel about 1781, and lived in Litchfield, Connecticut until after 1800. The last of their nine children was born in Chenango, New York in 1802. Rachel died in Chenango in 1834; Solomon, in 1839. This sampler, like the Manson sampler, lay undisturbed in storage for many years but now after research and conservation, it is ready for its debut. (Gift of Helen S. Cartledge, great-great granddaughter of Rachel Ruggles Warner)