Antique Needle Work - An 18th Century Sampler

Antique Sampler - Brinton Family Sampler

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

An Old Sampler

The old sampler hung on my wall for years. My mother said that my grandmother probably bought it an an antique shop in the 1950s. It was simple and sweet, and rather plain. I did not really study it. But, after some time, I realized that it was old and fragile, so put it away to get it out of the light, and out of the potentially destructive reach of my boys.

Last summer, my son's girlfriend decided to take up cross stitching. We looked at patterns together and talked about the old tradition of young ladies creating needlework. How the practice fell by the wayside and how now, there is a new appreciation for that beautiful art.

Suddenly, I remembered the old sampler that I had put away. I rummaged through the press cupboard and fetched the old sampler, taking a good long look at it in the process.

"Hey, this looks really old," I said.

On it was an alphabet, numerals, and a list of names, combined with the surname, Brinton:

Eliza, Hannah, Lydia, Phebe, Joshua, and Maria Brinton.

Antique Sampler - Brinton Family Samper Close Up

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

I Found the Who Made My Antique Sampler (Almost)

So, I Googled all the names and the surname as well. BOOM! Up popped a Brinton Family Genealogy created by one Danial Garrison Brinton (born in 1837), put up by the New York Public Library. The genealogy itself was obviously old.

I scrolled down the lists of the descendants of William Brinton who had come to the US in the mid 1600's. And there they were, listed together, the string of names that appeared on my sampler along with their birth dates.

Elizabeth, b. April 28, 1786

Hannah, b. April 9, 1788

Lydia, b March 24, 1790

Phebe, b January 28, 1792

Joshua, b Mrch 24, 1794

Maria, b Arpil 12, 1797

Phebe, b September 2, 1798

Ferree, b October 9, 1800

Susan, b May 20, 1806

Sadly, the listing of 2 Phebe's must indicate that the first Phebe died. But both are listed on the sampler. And, unfortunately, there appears to be a cut off name at the end. Whatever, it seems apparent that the sampler was created before 1807.

When I saw those names, every hair on my body stood on end. Tears sprang into my eyes. That little girl, so long ago, had created a list of her siblings, and here it was in my hands. This was, indeed, a precious find.

A Band Sampler

I learned that it was a band sampler. Band samplers feature letters stitched along narrow bands. Part of a girl's eduacation in those days, was sewing, a significant accomplishment as sewing was a neccesary skill.

One the area that featured the alphabet, the letter J is missing, common among young ladies of Germanic descent (either the mother or teacher as William Brinton was British). The sampler was on a piece of linen, stitched with silk thread.

Not long afterwards, I attended a Home and Garden Show. Appearing there was a famous antique appraiser who appeared on TV. She had a PhD in art history, and put on a fascinating, entertaining show as she appraised the various treasures attendees presented.

The famous appraiser moved along a table of items, educating the audience on the value and history of each item, what it had been used for, and how common it was. Each item included a lesson in collectibles, antiques, and the behavior of people in the past, what they saved, what they did not save, and the things that were important to them.

When she got to the Brinton Family Sampler, she gave the information that I had already acquired from a textile expert at a local museum. When the time came to value the piece, she claimed that it was worth $4,000.00. (That's right, four thousand dollars) My jaw dropped. After all, the sampler was not in perfect condition.

The William Bronton 1704 House

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

How to Learn the Value of an Antique

It was time to get rid of the antique sampler. It belonged in the hands of someone who understood how to care for it, who really appreciated the historic textile and would give it the home that it deserved. It needed to be properly framed and stored. The sampler was so delicate, I would never attempt to frame it myself.

I also realized that the value of any item is only what someone is willing to pay for it. You may check out values in catalogs, but that does not mean you will sell it for that amount of money.

I looked at online sales. Forget about ebay, they had nothing that approached the historic value of the textile.

I decided to approach the Brinton Family themselves, as well as an antique dealer who specialized in antique samplers.

From Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton's genealogy, I assumed that the Brinton family had lived in south eastern Pennsylvania. Once again, Google to the rescue. There, I found a Brinton Family Association that maintains a historic site south of West Chester, Pennsylvania and includes the William Brinton 1704 House and Historic Site.

The Brinton family seemed only slightly interested in the sampler. Even though my heart said to donated it to them, my pocket book was pretty empty these days, and I hoped for a little bit of recompense. So, it was on to Philadelphia.

Now, one of the appraiser's warnings was - never have a piece appraised by the person who may buy it. Unsavory dealers may appraise an item for a minimum amount of money, then turn it around and make a bundle.

The Rest of the Story

I located an antique shop that specialized in old textiles, particularly antique samplers.

My husband I thought it worth our while to go to Philadelphia and a visit to the Finkel shop. Ms. Finkel was friendly and business like and we conducted a brief meeting. I allowed Ms. Finkel to remove the old sampler from the frame to see if the edges were intact. They were. And the sampler did not dissolve into dust. As it was a very simple piece with limited information, I was offered an adequate sum of money which I accepted. After viewing the stuff they had online and on the walls of the shop, my own dear little paltry example of historic, traditional needlework paled in comparison.

I accepted far less that the exciting amount suggested by the appraiser, considering that the old textile would need a lot of cleaning and repair.

Afterwards, I went out to lunch and bought an egg sandwich. My husband had a hot dog. Just to let you know we didn't have a champagne lunch.

Why Should We Have Antiques Valued?

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Comments 36 comments

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

This is thrilling! I love such treasures and have quite a few family heirlooms, and my husband had many from his family as well. I am bookmarking this to view again. I just love the sampler you have displayed, as well as the 1822 one on the video. Those are indeed precious to have.

loriamoore 6 years ago

Oh how neat. I never learned to do any needlecrafts and apparently neither did any of my grandparents because I didn't inherit any of their works.

sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

What fun, to discover you have a treasure. I hope to read about a good ending to your story.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Nellianna - too precious for me. The sampler needs to be in the hands of someone who can care for it properly, someone who has a better understanding and love for historic textiles. Thanks for your comment.

loria, the young girl who created this sampler was older than either of our grandparents or their parents either. This baby is old! Late 18th or early 19th century. I am almost afraid of it, haha. Thank you!

sheila - I just hope that the experts don't open the frame and the whole thing disintegrates right before their eyes. haha. The story will continue...I would have enjoyed reading someone else's similar tale before I got into this. That's why I thought that it would be a good hub. Thank you for your interest.

katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

A lot of younger people are picking up this craft, I have a friend that has needle work in the car and enjoys adorning napkins and hankies we all enjoy as gifts. She says the travel in the car flies by while needle work keeps her occupied. Thanks for the tips. :)

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

What a fabulous tale.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Dolores - how beautiful - it makes me totally miss my cross stitching! I used to love doing those and have several framed that took me literally years to complete. My daughter also has done a gigantic Last Supper and these are just treasures that family can enjoy for decades. Thanks for the wonderful hub!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

katie - it's great to see some of the lovely work that people do with needles. I watch. Don't do. haha. Thanks!

ethel - thank you, I have to finish the rest of the story.

akirchner - your daughter must have some incredible focus power to complete a huge and intricate job like that. I am impressed. And the family will treasure it for years! Thank you for sharing!

tracykarl99 profile image

tracykarl99 6 years ago from San Francisco

What a beautiful experience to come across such a gem. My grandmother and great grandmother left me a number of these stitched items ~ and they created some of it themselves! Sadly, I never learned ~ but I am known to knit or crochet from time to time. Thanks for this nice read!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

thank you, tracy! I have several hand stitched tablecloths and such like from my own family, but this old sampler was really something.

Marijana Reynders 6 years ago

What a lovely piece of history and links to the past ... always sad that heirlooms such as this are not appreciated for what they are by family members and land on flea markets ... says the greatest sentimentalist on earth :-) How wonderful that this will be treasured and loved and cared for, its history and sentimental worth guarded for generations to come.

carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

It's very exciting to hold a piece of your family history in your hands!!!

Teddletonmr profile image

Teddletonmr 6 years ago from Midwest USA

Dolores, "Outstanding", my wife Carolyn cross stitches in her spare time. As a matter of fact she cross stiched a quilt for each of our four kids while pregnet. She learned from her grandmother, and hopes to teach our two girls, and maybe the boys as well. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Hub up...

dps profile image

dps 6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

I really enjoyed your hub. I absolutely love family history. Thank you.

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Awesome! I have some similar pieces, and I treasure them!

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

beautiful and it is a treasure, Maita

Beth Therese profile image

Beth Therese 6 years ago from New York, NY

What a great story, and I love the way you tell it. Thank you for this!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Marijana - that is my hope in placing the sampler in a specialty shop. Thank you for the lovely comment!

dps - glad you enjoyed it. Thank you!

habee - I am sure there are plenty of old samplers in people's homes. How could anyone throw something like that away! Thanks for stopping by!

Maita - it is a treasure, one that I am not equal to. It's for the person who knows how to care for it.

Beth - thank you so much! Thanks for stopping in!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

carolina - see, the thinig of it is, that was not my family. I had hoped to place it in the hands of the family that still lives. They seemed not to be interested, but I think that the Brinton family has treasured so much of their family artifacts already.

Ted - your wife must be a very patient person. One does need patience for such needlework. And she is creating heirlooms for the next generation! Thanks!

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

What a touching, and lovely story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I think its wonderful to encourage the art of needlework and other similar things. I hope they never fall totally by the wayside.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

oceansunsets - I think there is a new interest in the old traditional needlework. Glad you liked the story!

kate 6 years ago

This sampler lists the siblings of my grandfather's maternal grandmother, Hannah Brinton who was born 1788, and d. 1856. I wonder if you can tell me to whom you sold the sampler and I might be able to find it and purchase it. I realize it is a slim chance, but it would be nice to try. Thanks for your posting! So good to see the photo, too!

kate 6 years ago


Hannah Brinton would be my GREAT-grandfather's maternal grandmother.

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Just wanted to say congrats on the 100!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

kate - I had meant to post this hub before I actually sold it as a sort of story of how things went. I sold it to Finkel and Daughter in Philidelphia. There is a link for them above. I can't believe that I am in contact with a descendant of one of the girls who created the sampler! This is so exciting! Sometimes, this whole computer thing seems too much. But the idea of how people can connect, that you could find a thing like this old sampler online is amazing. If I had posted this earlier on, we could have eliminated the middle man. However, Amy Finkel knows her stuff and will have taken the right preservation measures. Since this just only happened last week, I don't thing they will have posted the sampler online yet. Maybe you should email them. Good luck. I hope that the sampler falls into your hands. It was a huge pleasure hearing from you. Please let me know what happens!

habee - thanks for the congrats! I keep popping up to 100 quite often lately, as you have. It's nice to see that nice round number. Makes me feel like I'm doing something right for a change, haha!

kate 6 years ago

YES, it is truly amazing - I've made many connections on the computer as I put all the family pictures and letters into some kind of order to eventually write the family story for my several nieces and nephews! I don't know if this will become a book or simply a series of outlines for each section of the family. I know that every family has a rich history with windows on so many aspects of life in the past, both in this country and the countries of origin - Those rich histories deserve telling!

I will contact Finkel and see what happens and will certainly keep you posted!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

kate - fortunately for you, there seems to be a lot of information available about the Brinton family, so you should be quite busy for some time. It sounds like a book would be great as there is a huge interest in the family, and there are so many Brinton homes still around. Good luck with the sampler. It won't be cheap.

Juana Ortiz profile image

Juana Ortiz 6 years ago

We all have something to share about our families. This is one example.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Juana - this is not my family, the names on the sampler. But you see a member of the Brinton family has left a comment. Thanks!

JoanWit3 profile image

JoanWit3 6 years ago from OR

Really nice hub. Just wanna say how internet makes it easier to learn things nowadays, including information about your own family...

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

Joan - it sure does! I remember several years ago, investigating this sampler and finding no info at all. Now, you can find so much! It's not my family though. My real hope is that the sampler finds it's way to a real Brinton family member. Thank you!

crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Beautiful hub,thanks for sharing.

kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

Thanks for including pictures. What a treasure!

GenWatcher profile image

GenWatcher 4 years ago from Maryland

I just found this post and had to comment because I am also a Brinton descendant and have two Brinton needlework pieces. I'm a very active genealogy buff as well and maintain several sites dedicated to Chester County Genealogy. Love seeing pictures of the Brinton 1704 House!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

GenWatcher - wow! Let me tell you that I am no relative of the Brintons, but finding that list online, I just burst into tears. I hope that my sampler finds it's way into the hands of a Brinton.

Ruth Pieterse 4 years ago

Very interesting. I enjoy cross stitch and find the world of embroidery quite fascinating.

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