Sampler, after March 3, 1842, linen, silk, H: 14 1/8 x W: 11 1/8 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Alana P. Williams, N0007.2006. Photograph by Richard Walker.



Figure 1: Detail of sampler.  The text reads “ezekiel maltwood who died the 3 or march aged 21”. 

Not much is known about the life of Ezekiel Maltwood.  He was born in Norfolk, England sometime in 1821 and christened on August 24 at the Caston Parish.[1]  He was the first child of his parents Robert and Hannah, who were married at that same parish in June of the year before.[2]  As the needlework records(fig. 1), Ezekiel died at the age of 21 on March 3, 1842 and was buried on the 11th.[3]

The reason we know anything about Ezekiel is because sometime after his death someone, presumably a younger female family member, created this embroidery piece memorializing him and that piece found its way from Norfolk, England in 1842 to a museum collection in Cooperstown, New York.  The piece is likely made by one of Ezekiel’s younger sisters Matilda or Sarah.  Matilda Maltwood was born in 1822, a year after Ezekiel.  Sarah Maltwood was born ten years after Eziekiel in 1831, putting her around 11 years old in 1842.[4]

Needlework, particularly samplers, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was an important part of a young lady’s education and was both a personal and family achievement.[5]  It showed that the maker was literate and had useful skills that would benefit her as a wife and a mother.  For the Maltwood family, it showed they had the means to educate their daughters and provide them with the supplies to make the piece.  Samplers could take on a variety of forms, including this example of a memorial or morning picture.  Memorial pictures are needlework or watercolor tributes created by young ladies to honor lost family members.[6]  When finished, the picture was hung in the parlor or a bedroom.[7]


Figure 2: Detail of the verse. The text reads “sinner awake why sleep so upon the brink of endless woe see the gulph beneath you burn pause oh sinner pause and turn come to Jesus come (illegible due to thread loss) life to come tis death to stay.”  

There are some components of a memorial sampler that are included in this work.  Information about the deceased is stitched in, usually onto a tomb.[8]  In this case, the maker encloses information about her brother in decorative rectangle (fig. 1).  She also included a religious verse on the sampler about sinners finding Jesus in death(fig. 2), possibly hoping her brother finds peace in death.  The sampler has decorative objects like trees, animals, and religious symbols throughout which may have had specific meanings to the maker, the family, or the intended viewer.

Perhaps this sampler also served as a memory of the daughter who made it after she left her family home.  Matilda was married to Thomas Girling a few months after Ezekiel’s death, which may be related to the Gerling family that are connected to the donor of the piece.[9] Sarah may have been a servant in a servant in a household in early as 1851 at the age of 21.[10]  Sarah worked in various households as an unmarried housemaid through the 1870s.[11]  It is hard to know how exactly the sampler affected the maker and the viewer, but it is a touching tribute to a lost brother and a record of mourning and memorial practices in nineteenth century England.

By Leanne Schmadtke

[1] “England, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts, 1685-1941,” database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 April 2016), Ezekiel Maltwood, 24 Aug 1821; citing Christening, Caston, Norfolk, England, Record Office, Central Library, Norwich; FHL microfilm 1,278,922.

[2] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 April 2016), Robert Maltwood and Hannah Gooch, 29 Jun 1820; citing Caston, Norfolk, England, reference item 2; FHL microfilm 1,278,921.

[3] “England, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts, 1685-1941,” database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 April 2016), Ezekiel Mallwood, 11 Mar 1842; citing Burial, Norfolk, England, Record Office, Central Library, Norwich; FHL microfilm 1,526,555.

[4] “England and Wales Census, 1841,” database with  images, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 April 2016), Ezekiel Maltwood in household of Robert Maltwood, Caston, Norfolk, England; from “1841 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey.

[5] Aimee Newell, A Stitch in Time: The Needlework of Again Women in Antebellum Art, (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014): 168.  

[6] Harold B. Nelson, “Good Fortune, Good Timing: Collecting American Samplers in Southern California,” Magazine Antiques 180 no. 3 (May 2013): 149.

[7] Laverne Muto, “A Feminist Art – The American Memorial Picture,” Art Journal XXXV no. 4 (1976): 353.

[8] Carol Huber, and Florence Griswold Museum, With Needle and Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery from the Connecticut River Valley, 1740-1840,Old Lyme, Conn: Florence Griswold Museum,2011, ebook.

[9] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch( : accessed 8 April 2016), Matilda Maltwood, 1842; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast ( : 2012); citing 1842, quarter 2, vol. 13, p. 575, Wayland, Norfolk, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.

[10] “England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 April 2016), Sarah A Mallwoods in household of Abraham Hepworth, Ingoldisthorpe, Norfolk, England; citing Ingoldisthorpe, Norfolk, England, p. 1, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

[11] “England and Wales Census, 1871”, database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 April 2016), Sarah A Moltwood in entry for Florence G H Saby, 1871.