“The First Efforts of an Infants Hand…”
A sampler is the result of a young girl’s effort to learn sewing and embroidery stitches – making herself a cloth tablet reference for her future handwork. Several years ago, the Collections Committee presented a display of samplers held in the LCHA collections titled, “The First Efforts of an Infants Hand…” This phrase was taken from the sampler of Nancy Chamberlain, who at age 9 in 1819 embroidered those words – part of a longer poem on her sampler.
Jesus Permit Thy Gracious Name to Stand as
The First Efforts of an Infants Hand
And While Her Fingers Ovr this canvas
Move, engage (her to undertake) to seek Thy love
Nancy’s sampler was possibly guided by Miss Mary Francis Tinkham. Miss Tinkham’s school in Wiscasset advertised in local newspapers for eight years, until her marriage in 1827 to the Hon. John Wilson of Belfast, ME.
Nina Fletcher Little, in her book Country Arts in Early American Homes, noted an ad for Miss Tinkham’s School date 1822, in which Miss Tinkham offered “needle-work and painting on velvet.”
LCHA holds eleven samplers dating from the first half of the 19th century in its collections. The age of these needle-workers ranges from seven to thirteen. All of these samplers exhibit hard work and exacting effort to form the shape and design of letters, numbers, and motifs, such as flowers, birds, and vines. Four of our samplers contain poems.
One cannot help but wonder, when studying the samplers if ever one of Maine’s young needle-workers wanted to embroider the following, as done by Patty Polk, age 9 in Kent County, Maryland (ca.1800): “Patty Polk did this and she hated every stitch she did in it. She love to read much more.”
Louise Miller, LCHA Education Director