How do you honor a loved one, especially after they are gone? Many people reread treasured books, play beloved music, or cook dishes repeated time and time again. For Ann Carr, honoring her grandmother came in the form of adding to her original sampler.

Hannah Reynolds, born in 1766, completed a sampler at the remarkable age 29. Historically, samplers had been a form of education – sewing taught young girls what they would need to know to clothe a family and outfit a house, their role as a mother and wife. As such, many samplers have alphabets, numbers, and short verses. Mrs. Reynolds was already married at that point, and would have no need herself to make a sampler. However, she would have most likely been teaching her daughters how to sew. This sampler could have been one used as an instructional tool while educating one of her oldest daughters, either Hannah or Emme, who would have been 12 or 8 years old at the time, respectively.[1]

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Sampler, 1795, Hannah Reynolds (1766-1849), silk on linen, H: 11 x W:9.5 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Marjory Hall Yeakley, N0490.1961. Photograph by Richard Walker.

Anne Alila Carr was born to another of Mrs. Reynolds’ daughters, Alila, in 1840. Her grandmother, undoubtedly proud of her skills as a sewer, most likely taught Anne how to cross-stitch as well. This could have been such an important part of their relationship that it was in this manner that young Ann decided to honor her grandmother. Barely a month after her grandmother had passed away, Ann added to the very bottom of Mrs. Reynolds’ sampler, leaving her mark on one of her grandmother’s creations. Her letters mirror her grandmother’s, right down to the crooked “s.” The only difference is that Ann simplified the “M’s,” perhaps depicting a more modern aesthetic.

By this time in American society, education styles had changed. Private girls academies, teaching the domestic skills needed to run a household, were being replaced by education curricula more similar to today. Ann most likely would have learned her letters and numbers in a schoolhouse than at the knee of her mother or grandmother. On the dawn of the patent of the Singer sewing machine, hand stitching would not have been as important a skill to master, and most likely would have been seen as an optional talent.[2] Anne chose to honor her grandmother by showcasing the skills she had learned, and forever intertwined herself with the story of her grandmother.


[1] Reynolds, Marion H, ed., The History and Descendants of John and Sarah Reynolds: 1630?-1923:of Watertown, Mass., and Wethersfield, Stamford and Greenwich, Conn., (Brooklyn: The Reynolds Family Association, 1924), 124.


[2] Newell, Aimee E. “’Tattered to Pieces’: Amy Fiske’s Sampler and the Changing Roles of Women in Antebellum New England.” In Women and the Material Culture of Needlework and Textiles, 1750-1950, ed. Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin (Ithaca: Ashgate, 2009), 51.

Written by Elizabeth Remy