Samplers in Aug. 14 Benefit Shop auction will keep bidders in stitches
MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — A hallmark of the monthly Red Carpet auctions at The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc., is the diversity of goods on offer, ranging from Midcentury Modern to antiquities. Buyers, especially Americana aficionados, will be pleased to discover a trove of schoolgirl samplers at the next scheduled auction, on Wednesday, Aug. 14. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Schoolgirl samplers were an important part of almost every young girl’s education in America in the 1800s and 1900s, teaching skills in the needle arts that one day would be used to run a household. Most common were alphabet samplers, which contained rows of letters and numbers, with the quality of the stitching indicative of the girl’s sewing prowess.
Many collectors gravitate to highly elaborate pictorial samplers on which buildings, trees, landscapes, animals and people were wrought onto the sampler via silk thread. Samplers also encompassed religious themes, with many girls stitching expressions of piety and virtue, such as The Lord’s Prayer or Bible verses, accompanied by images. All these categories will be well represented in the August auction.
“Samplers are wonderful and highly collected examples of folk art. Once highly prized as proof of a young girl’s mastery of the needle arts, today they are nostalgic, visually striking and graphic and are part of the renewed interest in early women’s history,” said Pam Stone, owner and founder of The Benefit Shop Foundation. “We were thrilled beyond belief to receive a donation of over 100 fine samplers, which we will be offering over several months.” The offering this month is but a small sampling (pun intended) of a large single-owner collection of samplers to be auctioned in the months to come.
Among notable alphabet samplers is a fine Pennsylvania Amish sampler wrought by Katie Stoltzfus, dated February 1, 1911, and featuring letters in varying colors and sizes along with a border of floral motifs running across the bottom. It measures about 25¾ by 18¼ inches.
While many samplers in the auction are signed by the girls who wrought them, often with their age and the year in which they were made, many more are unsigned, but that does little to detract from their appeal. An alphabet sampler (shown at top of page), undated and signed only “Mary,” with some illegible letters features alphabet letters along with a plethora of animal and floral motifs, includes a pair of rabbits under three trees and is flanked by a pair of birds.
Encompassing a stitched alphabet as well as pictorial elements is a linen and silk sampler of 18 by 13 inches, inscribed “Wrought by Betsey Ann Kenney, under the tuition of Clarinda Streeter in the year 1824. Preston, Chenango, N. York.”
Another fine example is an early 1800s alphabet sampler, signed “Sarah Short,” who was possibly born circa 1804. Besides colorful alphabet letters, the sampler depicts a pair of birds on pedestals and a bouquet of flowers along with a paper stencil of a side-profile portrait along its bottom border. It measures 8 by 11 inches.
An interesting example of religious samplers in this auction is an unsigned pictorial sampler depicting The Last Supper, with Jesus and the Apostles embroidered in multicolored tones, about 18 by 22¼ inches.
Rounding out the group of samplers in this auction is a very colorful and ornate sampler inscribed, “Love wasn’t put in your heart to stay, Love isn’t love til you give it away.” A colorful floral border surrounds a large vase filled with flowers on the sampler, which measures 19½ by 23½ inches.
The monthly Red Carpet sales feature choice collections of antique, Midcentury Modern, brand furnishings, sterling silver, china, crystal, jewelry and fine art. With a mission of “to donate, to discover and to do good,” the foundation is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit and auction proceeds support community organizations. Consignors get a tax deduction, buyers get quality goods — often at a great price — and local non-profits get much-needed funds.