Antique Needle Work: An 18th Century Sampler
Rediscovering My Antique Sampler
An old sampler hung on my wall for years. My mother said that my grandmother probably bought it an antique shop in the 1950s. It was simple, sweet, and rather plain. I did not really study it. But, after some time, I realized that it was old and fragile, so I put it away to get it out of the light and out of the potentially destructive reach of my boys.
Last summer, my son's girlfriend decided to take up cross-stitching. We looked at patterns together and talked about the old tradition of young ladies creating needlework—how the practice fell by the wayside, but now there is a new appreciation for that beautiful art.
Suddenly, I remembered the old sampler that I had put away. I rummaged through the press cupboard and fetched it, taking a good long look at it in the process.
"Hey, this looks really old," I said.
On it was the alphabet, numerals, and a list of names, combined with the surname, Brinton: Eliza, Hannah, Lydia, Phebe, Joshua, and Maria.
How I Almost Found The Person Who Made My Sampler
I Googled all the names and the surnames as well. Boom! Up popped a Brinton Family Genealogy created by one Danial Garrison Brinton (born in 1837) that put up by the New York Public Library. The genealogy itself was obviously old.
I scrolled down the lists of the descendants of William Brinton who had come to the US in the mid-1600s. And there they were, listed together, the string of names that appeared on my sampler along with their birth dates.
- Elizabeth, b. April 28, 1786
- Hannah, b. April 9, 1788
- Lydia, b. March 24, 1790
- Phebe, b. January 28, 1792
- Joshua, b. March 24, 1794
- Maria, b. April 12, 1797
- Phebe, b. September 2, 1798
- Ferree, b. October 9, 1800
- Susan, b. May 20, 1806
Sadly, the listing of two Phebe's must indicate that the first Phebe died. But both are listed on the sampler. And, unfortunately, there appears to be a cut-off name at the end. However, it seems apparent that the sampler was created before 1807.
When I saw those names, every hair on my body stood on end. Tears sprang into my eyes. That little girl, so long ago, had created a list of her siblings, and here it was in my hands. This was, indeed, a precious find.
Mine Is Actually a Band Sampler
I learned that it was a band sampler. Band samplers feature letters stitched along narrow bands. Part of a girl's education in those days, was sewing, a significant accomplishment as sewing was a necessary skill.
One the area that featured the alphabet, the letter J is missing, common among young ladies of Germanic descent (either the mother or teacher as William Brinton was British). The sampler was on a piece of linen, stitched with silk thread.
Not long afterwards, I attended a Home and Garden Show. Appearing there was a famous antique appraiser who appeared on TV. She had a PhD in art history and put on a fascinating, entertaining show as she appraised the various treasures attendees presented.
The famous appraiser moved along a table of items, educating the audience on the value and history of each item, what it had been used for, and how common it was. Each item included a lesson in collectibles, antiques, and the behavior of people in the past, what they saved, what they did not save, and the things that were important to them.
When she got to the Brinton Family Sampler, she gave the information that I had already acquired from a textile expert at a local museum. When the time came to value the piece, she claimed that it was worth $4,000.00. (That's right, four thousand dollars) My jaw dropped. After all, the sampler was not in perfect condition.
How to Learn the Value of an Antique Sampler
It was time to get rid of the antique sampler. It belonged in the hands of someone who understood how to care for it, who really appreciated the historic textile and would give it the home that it deserved. It needed to be properly framed and stored. The sampler was so delicate, I would never attempt to frame it myself.
I also realized that the value of any item is only what someone is willing to pay for it. You may check out values in catalogs, but that does not mean you will sell it for that amount of money.
I looked at online sales. Forget about eBay; they had nothing that approached the historic value of the textile.
I decided to approach the Brinton Family themselves, as well as an antique dealer who specialized in antique samplers.
From Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton's genealogy, I assumed that the Brinton family had lived in southeastern Pennsylvania. Once again, Google to the rescue. There, I found a Brinton Family Association that maintains a historic site south of West Chester, Pennsylvania and includes the William Brinton 1704 House and Historic Site.
The Brinton family seemed only slightly interested in the sampler. Even though my heart said to donated it to them, my pocketbook was pretty empty these days, and I hoped for a little bit of recompense. So, it was on to Philadelphia.
Now, one of the appraiser's warnings was—never have a piece appraised by the person who may buy it. Unsavory dealers may appraise an item for a minimum amount of money, then turn it around and make a bundle.
I located an antique shop that specialized in old textiles, particularly antique samplers.
My husband I thought it worth our while to go to Philadelphia and a visit to the Finkel shop. Ms. Finkel was friendly and business-like and we conducted a brief meeting. I allowed Ms. Finkel to remove the old sampler from the frame to see if the edges were intact. They were. And the sampler did not dissolve into dust. As it was a very simple piece with limited information, I was offered an adequate sum of money which I accepted. After viewing the stuff they had online and on the walls of the shop, my own dear little paltry example of historic, traditional needlework paled in comparison.
I accepted far less than the exciting amount suggested by the appraiser, considering that the old textile would need a lot of cleaning and repair.
Afterward, I went out to lunch and bought an egg sandwich. My husband had a hot dog. Just to let you know we didn't have a champagne lunch.
Why Should We Have Antiques Valued?
- The Brinton Association of America, Inc.
Official home page of the Brinton Association of America, Inc. (BAA). The BAA is a non-profit corporation headquartered in Chester County/Delaware County, Pennsylvania, for the purposes of maintaining and operating the William Brinton 1704 House and
Questions & Answers
I have 1792 needlework sampler, where I can get it appraised?
You can find an appraiser in your area who specializes in antique textiles by looking up the American Appraisers Association.