Different people tend to find different values in a variety of things: the value of objects changes as time goes on, either increasing or decreasing in value or becoming priceless. The worth of an object can also be in a nonmonetary value. Sentimental value or values that remain unseen tend to be the ones that people hold to the highest worth. For Elizabeth Phillip, her sampler (N0024.1982) has fluctuated in value since she created it in 1827 at her home in Fishkill, New York. The sampler once had significant value to Elizabeth and her family as this decorative piece of needlework by Elizabeth shows that at the age of nine she was “accomplished and showed gentility, the key traits of young girls at the time” [1]. The sophisticated embroidery demonstrates that Elizabeth’s family could pay for her education so that she might learn to create such a detailed embroidered sampler with the help of a teacher. This sampler could have been shown off at her family home as a sign of class, placing a significant amount of value on her sampler.

As Elizabeth grew older most likely kept this sampler her whole adult life as a demonstration of class, attached memories, and a childhood keepsake.


Sampler, 1827, Elizabeth Phillips (1816-1902), linen, silk, H: 16.75in x W:16.5in, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Mr.and Mrs. Clayton Weber, N0024.1982. Photograph by Richard Walker.

When Elizabeth died in 1902, her sampler was inherited by the next generation in her family who saw the value in the sampler as a memorial to their mother. No longer did the sampler serve the same purpose it once had.  Elizabeth’s descendants donated her sampler to the New York State Historical Society (NYSHA) in 1982. The sampler at the time of donation was much in the same condition as it remains in now; ripped in the middle, missing embroidery, tattered and stained. As the next generations of Elizabeth’s family inherited the sampler, the value continued to change. Instead of hanging on the wall it might have been placed in a cedar chest, stored in attics or basements where it most likely received the damage we see today. The damage over time to the sampler changed the value of the sampler as perceived by Elizabeth’s extended family. The sampler was appraised at $25 when acquired by NYSHA in 1982; when it was first made by Elizabeth the value upon it was far more significant in comparison. Thirty-four years since being donated the value can no longer be placed on Elizabeth’s sampler even with the fraying of the linen and the intelligible text is. A price tag naming the value in the sampler is not high in monetary value but rich in historical meaning as it provides evidence of the education of a woman who was not able to leave many traces of herself behind.

[1] Lynne Anderson, Samplers International: A World of Needlework, 2nd edition (Eugene: Sampler Consortium, 2011): 13.

By Sara Umland’17