A sampler can be simply defined as, “pieces of cloth used to record patterns and stitches.” [1] To most young women in the nineteenth century, a sampler represented much more that that.  Used as a tool to learn the alphabet, how to spell her name, or keep a family record, examining a sampler gives insight into the world of young women of the 1800s.  Looking at an object, one can make assumptions based purely on physical characteristics.  The real challenge is to take those physical characteristics and use them as clues to delve into the story behind the object.  One can learn about the life of the person behind the object by using this logic.

Catherine Franchot was one of those young women who used her sampler as a representation of her age, education and geographic location.  Born in 1810, Catherine was the daughter of a French immigrant, Stanislas Pascal Franchot, who settled Louisville, New York (which is now known as Morris, New York). [2] Her sampler (N0034.1960) was completed in 1817 when she was just eight years old and was most likely completed as a school assignment.  Catherine’s sampler was, and still is, a show of her abilities and a way communicate her accomplishments using needle, thread and cloth in time when women were expected to excel in fancywork and dwell in the domestic realm.  Now, Catherine’s sampler is housed at the Iroquois Storage Facility and owned by the New York State Historical Association.  Her work is being preserved as an example of the work young girls did in upstate New York in the early nineteenth century.

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Sampler, 1817, Catherine Hansen Franchot, linen, silk, H: 14 x W:8.75 in. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of George Munson and Nicholas Van Vranken Franchot Munson, N0034.1960. Photography by Richard Walker.

What physically remains on the sampler can be difficult to decipher but it is proof that Catherine Franchot was more than just a name a on a census record; she was a young girl who was striving to gain the necessary skills to become a respected wife and mother.  Catherine’s death at the early age of 22 from consumption, known today as tuberculosis, most likely makes her sampler one of the only physical representations of her existence, other than her gravestone.  [3] Though fancywork and sewing may have been seen as an everyday skill, the documentation of Catherine Franchot through her sampler has the power of teaching us about Catherine through something she made herself.  Even though we do have genealogical record of her family and where they were located, if those records didn’t exist, there is a possibility Catherine’s sampler could be the only proof of her existence.

[1] Lynne Anderson, Samplers International: A World of Needlework, 2nd edition (Eugene: Sampler Consortium, 2011): 9.

[2] “Stanislas Pascal Franchot.” accessed April 4, 2016. http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Franchot-5

[3] Brown, John Warner. Stanislas Pascal Franchot. New York: Independently published by Nicholas Van Vracken Franchot, 1935: 75.

By Cassidy Mickelson

 

 

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