Prologue: Selected Articles
Fall 2002, Vol. 34, No. 3
Six Samplers in the National Archives, Part 2
By Jennifer Davis Heaps
|A sampler created ca. 1809 by Laura Goodale of Berkshire County, Massachusetts. (NARA, Records of the Veterans Administration, RG 15)|
Laura Goodale's Sampler, ca. 1809
Laura Goodale, daughter of Chester Goodale and Asenath Cook, made what is the most visually appealing of the three genealogical samplers. Her choice of colors for the silk thread enhance what might otherwise be a plain though well-executed piece of needlework. Laura's sampler, created around 1809, lists the birth and marriage dates of her parents as well as their children. Her family lived in several places in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Chester Goodale was active in community life in West Stockbridge, having joined the Baptist Society in 1794 and helping to chart a Masonic Lodge in 1803.40
Later, when he was living in Egremont, Massachusetts, he applied for and was granted a pension for his service as a private in the Connecticut militia. He had no documentary proof of any kind. He had "no record of his age. . . . He never received a written discharge. He has no documentary evidence of his services nor does he know of any person living by whom he can prove them."41 The Pension Office deemed credible his assertions of military service, however, and he received a pension of fifty dollars annually. Chester was asked to supply his age, a statement of service, the battles in which he was engaged, his residence upon entering the service, the type of evidence to support his statement, and whether any papers of support were weak in form or authentication. After he died in 1835, his widow, Asenath, began the process of applying for additional installments of pensions under subsequent acts of Congress.
Among the later documents submitted to substantiate the continuation of payments was Laura's sampler. As she testified at age forty-seven in 1840, When about sixteen years of age and while my father was living I worked the sampler of needle work now enclosed and annexed to this deposition, being a record of our family, that the facts as they now appear upon the same were related to me by my father and mother, and so far as they can be known to me, with certainty they are correct. And those of which I cannot be supposed to know of my own knowledge, I have the fullest reason to believe correct. My mother is still living unmarried and dependent upon her children for support.42
Laura conscientiously had added the birth of another sibling outside the lines of her original design sometime after she first completed the sampler. The local justice of the peace, Robert F. Barnard, further testified that "the annexed sampler of needle work was delivered me by [Laura Hadley] . . . after being cut from a frame which appeared to have been long used in the family."43 The file does not tell us whether attempts to locate other records were made before surrendering the sampler, but the pension was awarded.
Like Harriet Bacon, Laura used a strawberry and vine border. Because the Bacon and Goodale families lived a reasonable distance apart and the strawberry border was popular in many areas, we cannot conclude that the samplers were made at the same school. However, Laura used the abbreviation "viz." for the Latin videlicet, meaning "namely." This appearance on the sampler before the list of children indicates influence or instruction from someone reasonably well educated, even if Laura was not directly familiar with that usage.
Seventy years later, personnel of the Pension Office, by then known as the Bureau of Pensions, inserted notes into Chester Goodale's file expressing concern about the sampler. A transcription of the sampler was made with an accompanying note that "the above . . . is taken from a sampler which has this day been taken from the claim and locked up in the Revolutionary Section of the Record Div[ision]." A similar note reiterated this and indicated that a "sampler [was] removed from this case and locked up for safekeeping."44 Concern for the sampler's well being probably arose because the bureau was receiving increasing numbers of genealogical requests from the public inquiring about the Revolutionary War service of ancestors. By the time Laura Hadley's sampler was removed in 1910, the bureau had already answered several inquiries for information about Chester Goodale. Staff undoubtedly believed that repeated use of his file could result in either damage to the sampler or theft, since sampler collecting had become popular by the early twentieth century.45
Huldah Booth's Sampler, ca. 1818
The crisply executed sampler documenting the births of the children of Peter Booth and Mary Leonard did not prove compelling enough evidence for the application of some of their children in the 1850s. Veteran Peter Booth had applied for a pension under the act of 1818, was rejected, and died later that year. His widow applied for a pension after passage of the act of 1836 and was granted $56.66 annually but died not long afterward in December 1838.46
Several years later, her children decided to try to continue to receive payments and in 1848 submitted the sampler made by Peter and Mary's daughter Huldah as proof of their relationship to the couple. Huldah testified that she knew of "no record of their marriage now in existence but knows that the sampler hereto annexed is an old original sampler worked by this deponent more than thirty years since" and that the dates recorded on it were "truly copied from an old family record."47 Unfortunately, the sampler did not include the date of Peter and Mary's marriage, and the children could only estimate the year.
A few years after receipt of the sampler, the Pension Office reexamined the Booth case and not only questioned whether the Peter Booth whose family applied for a pension was the same person as the man who served in the Revolution, but the marriage was called into question, as well. Pension officials determined that "the requirements of this office with regard to the proof of the date of the marriage have not been complied with."48 Peter and Mary's son Jedediah Booth tried several times to have this determination overturned, but the records do not indicate that he had any success. Apparently, the discrepancies had been overlooked for the widow during her lifetime but not for the surviving adult children after 1851.
In the 1840s, as John McKenzie and other elderly Revolutionary War veterans were passing away, so was needlework in female education. By the start of the Civil War, sampler making had become a lost practice. Changes in education for girls in particular and a world view challenged by industrialization pushed this decorative needlework to the margin of life. Nevertheless, transcending time, many samplers have carried on admirably in their role as coveted artifacts.
Samplers and other needlework are among the textile collections of numerous art museums and historical societies. They also have a strong following among private collectors. When the very best examples enter the marketplace, they command incredible prices at auction. The highest price ever paid for a piece of needlework was in 1996 at Sotheby's when the hammer fell at $1,157,000 for Hannah Otis's circa 1750 chimneypiece.49 Sampler collectors have made quite an impact on the appreciation of this schoolgirl art. Some of the most diligent collectors have contributed handsomely to needlework research. Thousands of humbler and undocumented samplers are available at antique shops and shows at any given time, waiting for new collectors to join the hunt.
When signed, these artifacts are often the only record of a girl's life. Vital statistics were not recorded as routinely or as meticulously as they are in our own time. The domestic roles most women played did not lend themselves to documentation in the public record. Fortunately, a few pieces of their girlhood accomplishments are part of the vast archives of the United States because they were used as evidence in documenting federal claims. To a discerning collector, none of these particular examples have the right combination of rarity, condition, charm, and fine workmanship that would make them especially sought-for treasures on the open market. But they do have individually and as a group what archivists call intrinsic value.50 As federal records, these samplers provide a valuable dimension to the national experience because they are also cultural icons of their time.
We have no idea whether the girls who stitched these samplers enjoyed making them, but we know they saved them, even when not completed like Patsey Bonner's and Harriet Bacon's. They framed them, like Laura Goodale's. And they saw their worth as legal proof by sending them to their federal government. What's more, the government understood their value as proof and reciprocated by using them to make decisions on granting pensions.
"When this you see remember me" was a common refrain used in samplers. The widespread popularity of this verse is shown in the geographical and chronological breadth of its occurrence. The makers hoped that their efforts would be appreciated beyond their own mortal existence because girls made samplers at a time when they could not assume that their whole lives lay ahead of them. Undoubtedly, many girls were taught that others would continue to see the evidence of their skill after they had died.
Martha Earl was but a little girl when she stitched her reference to her eventual death. We cannot truly remember someone like Martha, whom we never knew, so removed from our time and place. But when we study her sampler with its misspellings and backward letters, we can appreciate the humble efforts she made as a small child with silk and linen. In turn, this evidence of her life invites us to imagine and wonder about Martha, others like her, and the vanished world in which they lived.
The author wishes to thank NARA colleagues Ed Stokes, Zinnia Cho, Jeffery Hartley, J. Calvin Jefferson, Michael Meier, and Cynthia G. Fox for their assistance during the research for this article. The author also thanks her sister, Kirsten Davis Thomas, who introduced her to the world of needlework scholarship. Textile and needlework scholar Susan Burrows Swan provided helpful comments on a draft of this article. Elizabeth Oldham of the Nantucket Historical Association provided additional genealogical information for Mary Hearn.
1 Three works were indispensable to the study of the samplers in the National Archives. Susan Burrows Swan, Plain and Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1650 - 1850 (rev. ed. 1995), provides an excellent overview of plain household stitching and its importance in a girl's education in chapter 1, "Plain Sewing, Plain Housewives." For a thorough study of samplers, including family records, made as part of formal education, see Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650 - 1850, 2 vols. (1993). See also Gloria Seaman Allen, Family Record: Genealogical Watercolors and Needlework (1989), for many examples of family records in needlework.
2 Swan, Plain and Fancy, p. 52.
3 Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, pp. xvii - xviii.
4 Ibid., p. xix.
5 Although making samplers was mostly the province of white Christian girls, this activity was so pervasive that it touched on others in the larger society. There is evidence that some African American girls learned to make samplers. Schools that accepted free blacks existed in Newport, RI, and New York briefly in the eighteenth century. Needlework was likely part of their lessons. (Glee Krueger, New England Samplers to 1840 , p. 2). Kimberly Smith Ivey describes a charity school for black children in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1760 - 1774, that taught girls knitting, sewing, and other skills (In the Neatest Manner: The Making of the Virginia Sampler Tradition , p. 65). Ivey notes that no known needlework survives from that school or for any African American girl in Virginia. However, Ivey discovered an 1807 Norfolk ad for a runaway slave that mentions she knew how to sew, knit, and mark by a sampler. Betty Ring describes a sampler, dated 1832, embroidered with the name of the St. James First African P E Church School in Baltimore. (Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, p. 512).
In Samplers and Samplermakers: An American Schoolgirl Art 1700 - 1850 (, pp. 149 - 153), Mary Jaene Edmonds tells the story of an 1828 sampler made by an American Indian girl at the Cherokee Mission School in Dwight, AR. There also are a relatively few extant examples of samplers made by Jewish girls, as cited in Anne Sebba's Samplers: Five Centuries of a Gentle Craft (1979), p. 111. These were sometimes distinguished by their inclusion of Hebrew letters and Jewish religious motifs. Finally, some boys made samplers. Glee Krueger speculates that these may have been completed to occupy boys at home or "dame" schools when girls completed their needlework. (Krueger, New England Samplers, p. 18).
6 Swan, Plain and Fancy, p. 6.
7 Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, pp. 12 - 14.
8 The Office of the Commissioner of Pensions went through several name changes. Throughout this article it is referred to as the Pension Office.
9 These number about 120 items in all. The author is completing a study of the English-language ink and watercolor family records that compose the majority of this total.
10 Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (2001), p. 414.
11 Different versions of this verse appear on samplers created in various geographic areas and time periods. It had incredible staying power. See for example, Glee Krueger's A Gallery of Samplers: The Theodore H. Kapnek Collection (1978), which illustrates a 1743 example from Charleston, SC (p. 23, figure 16), 1748 Boston (p. 24, fig. 18), 1828 Marietta, PA (p. 70, fig. 101), and ca. 1840 New Hanover, PA (p. 84, fig. 120). Krueger's New England Samplers to 1840 (1978) illustrates another example dated 1793 from Springfield, MA (no page, fig. 28). In the South, Kimberly Smith Ivey's In the Neatest Manner (1997) shows a 1761 sampler from Isle of Wight County, VA (p. 56, fig. 74), and in the Midwest, Sue Studebaker's Ohio Samplers: Schoolgirl Embroideries, 1803 - 1850 (1988) shows an 1837 sampler of Pike Township, Clark County (no page, fig. 30).
12 W. Woodford Clayton, History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey, with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men (1882), p. 254.
13 Minutes of the Justices and Freeholders of Bergen County, New Jersey, 1715 - 1795, from the Original in the County Clerk's Office (1924), pp. 187, 227.
14 Morris Earl's position as a taverner is noted in Adrian C. Leiby's The United Churches of Hackensack and Schraalenburgh, New Jersey, 1686 - 1822 (1976), p. 268.
15 Deposition of Martha Bertholf, May 2, 1842; pension file of Morris Earl, New Jersey, W849; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (National Archives Microfilm Publication M804), roll 885; Records of the Veterans Administration, Record Group 15.
16 Deposition of Cornelius Terhune, May 2, 1842, ibid.
17 Letter of David Pye to James L. Edwards, May 20, 1842, ibid.
18 Martha's husband's name appears variously spelled as Casparus, Cadparus, and Jasper, the latter in Morris Earl's pension file. The baptisms of their children are captured in Herbert Steward Ackerman and Arthur J. Goff, comps., First Hackensack Reformed Church Records, 1801 - 1886 (n.d., 2nd ed.). Morris Earl mentioned several family members in his will. Martha is possibly referred to as Patty here. The will also mentions "Negro— Peter," who is likely the slave enumerated in Morris Earl's household in the 1830 federal population census. The will is cited in Bergen County Will Abstracts, Book D.1, p. 328, transcribed by a New Jersey chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
19 Deposition of Martha McKenzie, Oct. 3, 1843; pension file of John McKenzie, North Carolina/South Carolina/Virginia, W1049; M804, roll 1690.
20 Mary Bondurant Warren and Jack Moreland Jones, comps., Washington County, Georgia Land Warrants, 1784 - 1787 (1992), p. 12.
21 Ella Mitchell, History of Washington County (1924; reprint, 2000), pp. 11 - 12.
22 Deposition of Martha McKenzie, Oct. 26, 1846; pension file of John McKenzie, M804, roll 1690.
23 Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, pp. 532 - 538. Kimberly Smith Ivey's In the Neatest Manner is an expansive exhibit catalog focusing on Virginia samplers. Ivey's work demonstrates that there were, at least in Virginia, many young girls making samplers as part of their education (see pp. 49 - 52).
24 J.A.N. Murray to J. L. Edwards, n.d., pension file of John McKenzie, M804, roll 1690.
25 A copy of John McKenzie's November 11, 1842, death notice appears in his pension file.
26 Martha is enumerated with her son and his family in the 1850 federal population census.
27 For examples, see Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, p. 149, fig. 165; p. 150, figs. 166 and 167; and Charles H. Carpenter, Jr. and Mary Grace Carpenter, The Decorative Arts and Crafts of Nantucket (1987), p. 95, fig. 72; p. 96, figs. 73 - 74; and plates 33 and 34.
28 Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, pp. 148 - 149.
29 Deposition of Mary Fralick, Feb. 12, 1846, pension file of Daniel Hearn, Massachusetts, W17064; M804, roll 1242.
30 Deposition of Elizabeth Hearn, Feb. 12, 1846, ibid.
31 Elizabeth Oldham, Nantucket Historical Association, to the author, July 5, 2002 (email).
32 Mary Fralick to Wheeler H. Clark, n.d., ibid.
33 Ibid. Elizabeth was enumerated in the 1810 federal population census in Nantucket. She does not appear in published indexes for the federal population censuses of Nantucket taken in 1790 or 1800.
34 Elizabeth Oldham to the author, July 5, 2002.
35 Deposition of Mary Fralick, Apr. 5, 1847, pension file of Daniel Hearn, M804, roll 1242.
36 Allen, Family Record, p. 1.
37 Charles J. Palmer, History of the Town of Lanesborough, Massachusetts, 1741 - 1905, Part I (n.d.), p. 84.
38 John F. Seymour, Centennial Address, Delivered at Trenton, N.Y., July 4, 1876 (1877), pp. 26 - 29.
39 Deposition of Harriet Bacon, Jan. 4, 1844; pension file of Samuel Bacon, Massachusetts/New York, W20681; M804, roll 105.
40 Edna Bailey Garnett, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts 1774 - 1974: The History of an Indian Settlement Queensborough or Qua-Pau-Kuk (1976), pp. 65, 92.
41 Deposition of Chester Goodale, Aug. 15, 1832; pension file of Chester Goodale, Connecticut, W19522; M804, roll 1088.
42 Deposition of Laura Hadley, n.d., Ibid.
43 Deposition of Robert F. Barnard, May 25, 1840, ibid.
44 The first note is dated "Mch 7, 1910," and the second is undated; ibid. Patsey Bonner's and Mary Hearn's samplers were similarly safeguarded.
45 See Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, pp. 543 - 548.
46 Deposition of Jedediah L. Booth, Jan. 17, 1848; pension file of Peter Booth, Connecticut/Massachusetts, W15597; M804, roll 289.
47 Deposition of Huldah Andrews (Andrus), Jan. 17, 1848, ibid.
48 F. S. Evans, Pension Office, to Hon. H. S. Conger, House of Representatives, Mar. 8, 1851, ibid.
49 This price includes the buyer's premium. See Deborah Harding and Laura Fisher, Home Sweet Home: The House in American Folk Art (2001), p. 18. A chimneypiece is a long, horizontal landscape piece of needlework designed to be displayed over a fireplace mantel.
50 See "Intrinsic Value in Archival Material," Staff Information Paper 21, National Archives and Records Service, 1982. Intrinsic value has been defined as "the inherent worth of a document based upon factors such as age, content, usage, circumstances of creation, signature, or attached seals" (Lewis J. Bellardo and Lynn Lady Bellardo, comps., A Glossary for Archivists, Manuscripts Curators, and Records Managers , p. 19)
Jennifer Davis Heaps is a member of the Policy and Communications Staff and has worked in several archival program units at the National Archives and Records Administration.
|Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.|