1812 American Needlework Sampler

Value (2009) | $20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

My grandmother was the caretaker for Anna Bradley, and when Anna passed, she inherited all her belongings. And she was looking through a linen box one day and she found this. So she unfolded it and then she put it behind glass, tracing back the family ancestry. They came from England, and then they settled in Delaware. And I believe it was Maryland and Delaware.

Okay. So that's a lovely way to acquire an object, isn't it?


That may be one reason why we're looking at a needlework which has survived in remarkably good condition. Needleworks are such that they use vegetable dyes, and as a result the colors are fugitive. They're subject to fading, damage from moisture, insect damage. There are a lot of things that would put them in peril. Compositionally, it's very beautiful. This girl who made this in school, under the guidance of a teacher, had a talent, and I daresay she probably had a very good teacher as well. So this collaborative effort with her guidance, her talent, this needlework is visionary, I think. It's very beautiful. The inclusion of some of the these wonderful decorative devices-- the butterflies, these beautiful grapes and meandering vines with flowers, the rabbits on that sort of grassy knoll all combine to make a compellingly beautiful needlework. Now, you told me you had it conserved. I assume that it's acid-free cardboard next to the piece, the mat and that sort of thing.

Oh, yes.

Which would prevent...

Museum glass.

Perfect. That's why this piece is not toned or turned yellow, because it apparently wasn't in a frame backed with wood next to the linen. The results can be disastrous.

Oh, I'm sure.

This escaped all that, it's terrific. I'll call it a number nine, so that's pretty good. I think as far as value is concerned, certainly in an auction situation, I think it would be estimated, probably in the area of, let's say, $20,000 to $30,000.


That's how good it is.

Wow, that's nice.

Appraisal Details

Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2009)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Raleigh, NC (June 27, 2009)
19th Century
June 27, 2011: Since this segment aired, more than one viewer has written in to point out that the letter "J" is absent from the needlework alphabet in this 1812 sampler. We consulted J. Michael Flanigan, one of ROADSHOW's folk art experts, who explained that this is fairly common in samplers from this period and earlier. In the Latin alphabet used by English speakers, the letter J is a relative latecomer, having developed over time as a variant of the letter "I." And although this change was largely complete prior to the 18th century, it is not unusual to see "I" and "J" treated as the same letter when rendering the alphabet.

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