By: Patricia Norman ’17

Judith S. Mosher finished her beautiful and detailed family record sampler (N0140.1972) on September 8, 1831, when she was ten years old. In 1972, Judith’s great-granddaughter, Ella Stoddard, donated her sampler along with many other family objects, to the New York State Historical Association. So, what happened to the sampler during the 141 years that passed from the time Judith carefully stitched it to its eventual donation? By examining the donor records, the journey Judith’s sampler takes from creation to museum comes to life. The records highlight the importance of the sampler to the Mosher, Potter (Judith’s married name), and Stoddard families, how material culture played an important role in the three families lives, and speaks to why Ella found it important to donate it to the museum collection.

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Sampler, 1831, Judith S. Mosher, linen, silk, cotton, H:20.25in X W: 18.25in, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Ella M. Stoddard, N0140.1972. Photograph by Richard Walker.

After Judith completed the sampler, it likely adorned the walls of the Mosher home until Judith married Thomas Potter on March 6, 1841.[1] It was a sign of pride for the family and it acted as a tangible piece of documentation for the family genealogy. After her marriage, Judith may have taken the sampler with her to her new home in Moreau, New York, as one of her youngest daughters, Helen Augusta, eventually inherited the family record. Helen Augusta Potter Stoddard eventually bequeathed the sampler to her granddaughter, Ella Stoddard.

When Ella donated the sampler, she also donated Judith’s cashmere shawl and Staffordshire platter. Additionally, she donated Stoddard family items such as portraits of Helen Augusta and her husband Seneca Ray Stoddard (a prominent New York photographer)[2], fine oil paintings, a birthday photograph book, books written by Seneca, and souvenirs from the “Far East.”[3] Why were these the items that Ella decided to donate to the museum? One reason may be that these items are a fine representation of the family and its history of keeping and passing down material objects, but a far more compelling reason is that the family valued these objects. Value, whether based on monetary worth or sentimentality, plays an important role in why objects are eventually donated to museums.

When examining Judith’s sampler, it is clear that the item was a valued piece of family history. The sampler is in good condition for having been created 185 years ago. In addition to the sampler, many of the other objects donated also reflect sentimental value, as many are directly connected with a specific family member. For Ella, these objects are not only sentimental, but also represent the pride she feels for her family, which is likely why she donated these objects. Like Judith, Ella wanted her family’s legacy to be remembered for years to come, and what better way to do that than to donate to a museum.

 

[1] Mildred Mosher Chamberlain, Descendants of Hugh Mosher and Rebecca Maxson Through Seven Generations (Library of Congress, 1980), 89.

[2] Chapman Historical Museum, Seneca Ray Stoddard Collection, Accessed on April 8, 2016, http://chapmanmuseum.org/collections/stoddard/

[3] Mrs. Ella M. Stoddard’s donor file at the New York State Historical Association.

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