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Welcome to the Sampler Archive

The Sampler Archive database has been designed to share detailed information and high-resolution images of American girlhood samplers and pictorial embroideries from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

From the Director, Lynne Anderson

It is with great pleasure that we announce a large new addition to the Sampler Archive database of American schoolgirl samplers. Now available for public viewing are images and information for 100 samplers from Westtown School’s sampler collection, as well as nine three-dimensional globes. This represents approximately two-thirds of the school’s needlework collection, with the rest scheduled to be available in the Sampler Archive later this year.

Westtown Boarding School was founded by the Religious Society of Friends in 1799 to provide a "useful education" to the sons and daughters of Quaker families belonging to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. In addition to instruction in a range of academic subjects, girls attended “sewing school” where they often stitched multiple samplers. The types of samplers made at Westtown were modeled after those developed at Quaker schools in England, and included marking samplers, motif samplers, medallion samplers, darning samplers, extract samplers, and architectural samplers. Girls also worked silk embroidered globes, both terrestrial and celestial. These needlework projects were unique to Westtown School, and complemented the school’s academic instruction in geography and astronomy.

Of the samplers now online in the Sampler Archive, most were made by girls when they were students at Westtown. Others were made by the girls before or after they attended Westtown or made by other family members. A few have no known connection to Westtown but serve as examples of the types of needlework instruction available to girls in the 18th and 19th centuries. Mary Uhl Brooks is the archivist at Westtown School and responsible for the school’s sampler collection. In 2015 she wrote a richly illustrated book about the sampler collection entitled Threads of Useful Learning: Westtown School Samplers which can be purchased at the school’s website.

We welcome this newest additional to the Sampler Archive and hope you enjoy learning about these wonderful examples of schoolgirl art. To access the list of samplers and globes from the Westtown School collection, go HERE.

Browse the Sampler Archive



Accessing the Sampler Archive database

You may access the Sampler Archive database in two major ways. To browse, use the top menu to go to the Browse page and select any of the filters listed (e.g. contributor, decade, place made, etc.). Your selection will return all the objects in the database within that category. You can also browse by selecting any of these same filters from the Home Page.

If you have a more specific idea of what you are looking for, then go to the Search page. Here you may enter multiple search criteria at the same time (e.g., "name, decade, AND state made" or "materials, object type, AND year). The database will return search results matching all the search terms you entered.

Coming soon

The Sampler Archive database will continue to grow over the next months and several years, with additional information and images from sampler collections across the United States, both public and private. Coming soon will be results from the Delaware Statewide Sampler Initiative (2013-2016) - information and images for more than 300 samplers and pictorial embroideries from public and private collections in the state of Delaware. This initiative was funded by grants from the Delaware Humanities Forum and the Coby Foundation.

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