The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 23, 2009


Carlisle’s sampler collection – deemed unique and valuable

Carlisle Historical Society’s sampler, “Family Record,” is in very good condition and considered an excellent example of counted cross-stitch. (Photo by Priscilla Stevens)

The Carlisle Historical Society (CHS) owns an unusually impressive collection of samplers, according to Denise De More, founder of the Mayflower Sampler Guild. Although many collections are larger, she said, most do not contain as many samplers from one location. Remarkably, the Society has 14 samplers worked by Carlisle girls between 1786 and 1838, and CHS collections manager Janet Hentschel says there are two additional pictures at the Concord Museum. Hentschel worked with De More to produce a booklet about Carlisle’s collection entitled, “Samplers & Other Textiles in the Carlisle Historical Society.”

In centuries past, young girls worked samplers as practice for learning various embroidery and household stitches, and, when they became proficient, to demonstrate their abilities. A talented needlewoman had great value in the days before machine sewing and cheap clothing. Since everything was hand-stitched, from sheets and blankets to underclothing and other garments, it was vital for women to be adept, at least, at plain stitching. Fancy needlework served not only as decoration, but also as income.

Today, there are individuals and organizations that can assess the value of needlework. The Mayflower Sampler Guild in Duxbury was founded six years ago to promote the preservation of needle arts. The members, over 40 strong, study the history of samplers as well as create works of their own. In June, the Guild visited Carlisle to view the Historical Society’s collection. (See “CHS samplers draw attention,” by Janet Hentschel, Mosquito, August 14, 2009).

One sampler, “Family Record,” particularly impressed the Guild because of its varied and skillful stitches. Worked by Mary E. Monroe, born in 1812, it is a detailed, colorful picture in remarkably good condition. Clearly visible are the traditional cross-stitched alphabet, as well as decorative flowers and columns which frame a place for family births and deaths. Monroe family embroiderers recorded births and deaths between 1788 and 1894, the year Monroe died. De More said that the Guild estimated the sampler has enough value to warrant an appraisal by Skinner or another reputable auction house, and suggested that the CHS have it professionally graphed so the patterns could then be sold.

The Carlisle samplers anchor a fascinating collection of historical textiles at the CHS, including garments, quilts, bonnets and carpetbags, many of which boast elaborate embroidered decoration.

Those interested in seeing the artifacts described in the article, or purchasing the booklet ($10) can contact the Society’s President, Charlie Forsberg,, to arrange a visit. ∆

More on samplers

Those interested in the Mayflower Sampler Guild may contact Denise De More at

De More recommends American Samplers, by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe. Other sources include Plain & Fancy: American Women and their Needlework 1700-1850, by Susan Burrows Swan; Traditional Samplers, by Sarah Don; Samplers: Five Centuries of a Gentle Craft, by Anne Sebba, and for learning embroidery, Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book.

The Carlisle Historical Society’s web site is

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito