How long does a memory last? The idea of an everyday action a person does today will be remembered a hundred years from now is unlikely. That action influencing or appreciated by others seems like fantasy. Many doubt putting the time and effort into the making of an object as it will eventually be tossed away. However, there is a chance that object survives and not only bears the memory of the maker, but those that see it appreciated it. What is left is a story and a sampler.

Welthy Andrus was born on March 28, 1803 in Richfield, NY. On July 11, 1804 she was baptized by Rev. Daniel Nash in Christ’s Church, Cooperstown, NY.[1] She only appears again in 1865 in the census at age 61 living with her sister in Richfield, NY. That was the life of Welthy Andrus or at least the documents from which history is created. However, the memory of Welthy Andrus did not disappear but lived on through a sampler she created at the age of 11 years old. Used to teach young girls letters and practical homemaking skills, the sampler showcased the maker’s attention to detail and quality of their work. This sampler that Welthy Andrus finished of February 20th 1815 is done on bleached linen. The thread is both black and blue and made of cotton. The alphabet is done in many ways and overall it is a simple yet stylish sampler. She undoubtedly took great pride in crafting this sampler as most girls did during her time [2]. However, the sampler is not a memory of Welthy Andrus, but the embodiment of memory.

welthy

Sampler, 1815, Welthy Andrus (1803-unknown), cotton on linen, H: 12.5 x W:10.5 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Zoamla Wilsey, N0123.1939. Photograph by Richard Walker.

Fast-forward to the donation of the sampler to the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) in 1939 by Zoalma Wilsey, who acquired it from her mother before her. The Wilsey owners took great care in preserving the sampler behind a glass frame to be displayed on a wall. By doing so, the condition of the sampler is excellent for a textile now over 200 years old. This allows the sampler to take on a new life of its own.

In 1983 and 1987, Elizabeth Ring uses the sampler of Welthy Andrus in two of her books discussing needle working and samplers [3]. In more recent years, this sampler has appeared in two exhibitions discussing public schooling in Otsego County and as a tribute to women artist in the area.[4]

 

While we still do not have documents telling us more details of the life of Welthy Andrus, her memory lives on through her sampler. Through literature and exhibitions, this sampler has been seen by hundreds of people rather than sit in a museum storage. No doubt that Welthy Andrus would be surprised to find out her sampler from when she was 11 in 1815 was still around! More so since it is not only seen but appreciated by those that see it.

By Joshua D. Taylor

[1] “Records of Births and Baptism, 1797-1827Rev. Daniel Nash.” Daniel Nash. Accessed April 07, 2016. http://theusgenweb.org/ny/otsego/churches/nashbabtism.htm.

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

[3] Ring, Elizabeth. Let Virtue Be a Guide to Thee: Needlework in the Education of Rhode Island Women, 1730-1830. Providence, RI: Rhode Island Historical Society, 1983. 220

[4] Dejardin, Fiona, Melissa Plechavicius, and Doreen De Nicola. Rediscovery: A Tribute to Otsego County Women Artists. Oneonta, NY: Hartwick College, 1989.

 

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