The Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, N.J., opens a new online exhibit featuring 19 samplers made by girls in the 18th and 19th century.
The collection can be viewed at barracks.org/samplercollection.
Needlework was an essential part of a young girl’s education during the 18th and 19th centuries. Typically created by girls ranging in age from 8 to 15 working under the instruction of a teacher, samplers demonstrated the individual’s necessary skills of sewing or mending for her future home life.
Depending on the skill and age of the creator, samplers could range from simpler “marker samplers” to embroidery with beautiful landscape subjects resembling paintings.
Considered art in their own right, samplers have come to be valuable for another reason, as oftentimes they are the only physical representation left of everyday women of the past. Usually girls would include their name, age, date of birth and hometown (or some combination thereof) into their stitching, leaving a written record of their existence.
The Old Barracks Association is proud to display these pieces and the stories that can be pieced together about the lives of the women who created them.
The collection has always been of interest to the museum’s curator, Rebecca Heiliczer, who said of the project, “Exploring the lives of these women, many of whom have been forgotten, has been fascinating, frustrating, and even humbling at times. It is a privilege to research their stories and present it to the public.”