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About Westtown School

Westtown School was founded in 1799 by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) on 600 acres purchased from a Quaker farmer in Chester County, Pennsylvania - then a day's ride from Philadelphia. Open only to Quaker boys and girls, the boarding school provided students with a "useful education," along with spiritual formation. Changes to the school in the 20th century include a more expansive curriculum and the admission of non-Quaker students beginning in the 1930s. Today, Westtown School is an independent pre-k – 12th grade Quaker day and boarding school, situated on the same 600 acres purchased in the 1790s, a school with a diverse community of students from around the country and the world.

About the Westtown School Needlework Collection

A broadside describing Westtown School in 1799 included the following: "Girls . . . are to bring with them a pair of scissors, thread-case, thimble, work-bag and some plain sewing or knitting to begin with." While the school's curriculum was much the same for boys and girls (reading, grammar, writing, arithmetic and mathematics, bookkeeping, geography and natural science), there was one major difference - boys learned surveying while girls received instruction in needlework. Samplers made by Westtown girls were modeled on Quaker schoolgirl needlework in England, particularly the samplers made at Ackworth School and York School, schools familiar to the Philadelphia Quakers active in the founding of Westtown School. Unique to Westtown, however, was the construction of embroidered silk globes, an endeavor that complemented the girls' study of geography and astronomy. Westtown's collection includes nine terrestrial silk globes. Of the more than 150 flat samplers in the Westtown collection, about half were made at the school under the instruction of its teachers, making the collection an important body of 19th century schoolgirl needlework from one institution. Other samplers in the collection were made by Westtown girls prior to or after their attendance at Westtown, or by family members. Still others have no direct connection to Westtown but exhibit a range of sampler styles from the period. Only four samplers in the school's collection– those with an English provenance – will not be included in the Sampler Archive. Many of the samplers in the Westtown collection were in the school's possession when information about the samplers was first recorded in the 1930s, but most have been donated since that time. Westtown's sampler collection is under the care of the archives staff. In 2015 the school published a 346-page, richly illustrated book about the sampler collection entitled Threads of Useful Learning: Westtown School Samplers. It was written by Mary Uhl Brooks and can be purchased from Westtown School at the school's website: westtown.edu.

Thank you to Jean Fox, Launa Sprouls, and Karen West for their assistance with documentation of the samplers and to Ed Cunicelli and Terence Roberts for photography of the collection.


Objects contributed by Westtown School

Contact Information and Copyright Procedures

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Westtown School holds the copyright for its images in the Sampler Archive database. Feel free to use the images for personal research and education.
For permission to publish any images in an online or paper-based publication please visit Rights and Reproductions.
Westtown School works hard to make the collection accessible to all. For further information about an object or to make an appointment to see an object or group of objects please email the Westtown archivist (archives@westtown.edu) or call 610-399-0123.