Peter Glogovsky

If you were moving from one place to another, what would you bring along? Can you imagine moving from England to America in the 19th century? For Jane Quait, her sampler (N0018.2001) is a kind of record that tells her story of moving from England to America.  Jane was born in Kent, England in 1813, and was just 10 years old when she created this sampler.[1] At that time, part of a girl’s education was to create samplers as a way to learn the alphabet and to read. The sampler was also a teaching tool  to which they could refer  for different types of sewing techniques as well. [2] She learned to cross stitch her letters and a series of verses and then decorated the sampler with images of flowers, animals and a scene of her father’s mill and home in the bottom section. Typical of English samplers, it is in a muted color palette of greens, golds and browns, and contains signatures, a symmetrical design and verses. [3] There are floral borders, dividing lines round the sampler that are full of these English color variations. Jane’s sampler was a component of her education but it also recorded her familial home.  Why would Jane choose to embroider her home and her father’s mill onto her sampler?

Jane married her husband Charles in 1833 while still living in England. Then in 1836, she and her husband moved to America. The family first lived in New York City before travelling up the Hudson River on a steamer and then a Packet boat west on the Erie Canal. They finally settled in the city of Utica in upstate New York in the mid 1850’s. [4] Jane, Charles and some of their children traveled back to England from 1871-1872. There, Jane visited her childhood home although the mill was by then gone. Jane died in Utica in 1905 where her family lived. [5]

The symmetrical verses are interesting and speak to the moral values that Jane grew up with in the home depicted in the bottom section. More importantly, carrying the sampler to America tells a story of nostalgia for her English home and family. At face value, one may see the house on the sampler and think it is a pleasant scene, however, the sampler would have held many memories for Jane of her childhood growing up in that house. Jane brought the sampler with her when she moved to Utica from England and started a new life. The sampler would have been a reminder of her heritage and was part of her identity. Even now, many people have photographs of their homes as reminders of family and where they grew up., e.g., when students move away to college, they bring with them photographs of friends and family and of their homes. This sampler was special to Jane because of the memories that are embedded in between the embroidery. The complex sampler has layered meaning, each motif and verse were careful decisions by the maker and are clues to who she was.

N0018.2001 shot.JPG

Sampler, 1823,Jane Quait, Silk on Linen, 16.5in x 14.5in x 1in, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Gertrude Millar Owens, N0018.2001 Photograph by Richard Walker.

[1] Jane Quait,, Christening location

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

[3] Anderson, Samplers International, 20.

[4] Utica, New York, City Directory, 1895/Jane Quait Millar

[5] Utica Herald Dispatch, 1905/Jane Quait Millar