Antique Needlework Samplers
Toward understanding more about antique needlework samplers let's look in on noted antique dealer, Elmer P. Thinkwhile as he joins Sherlock Holmes III at a Federal Period mansion in Western Massachusetts, hoping to unravel a mystery.
"As you can see, Thinkwhile, much remains of the original contents. The entire estate, house, furnishings, rugs, attic boxes, everything, is to be sold at public auction later this week. The heirs have asked me to a find a poem that, according to the family journal, was pirated from its author and hidden in this house by Anna Lee, the daughter of the first governor in 1807. It was said to be the first work of William Cullen Bryant, and his masterpiece. It would be worth a fortune today. The daughter, a playmate of the Bryant's, was said to be jealous because she was refused the same education young men received in the arts, even though she was by all accounts, brilliant. Regrettably, Anna died of pox in 1808. The owners have scoured the house, yet the poem remains unfound. I assume this girl left some crumb as to its whereabouts. This is what we seek."
The house was a maze of valuable antiques; slant front desks, Duncan Phyfe style dining furniture, a Roxbury tall clock, and many chests filled with papers. They came across Anna's diary. Her writings demonstrated she was indeed a prodigy in science and language, but left no clue as to where she hid the poem. Frustrated, Holmes dropped the book on a table. "Where else would a bright woman be encouraged to express herself in Anna's time, Thinkwhile?
"Nowhere, unfortunately," Thinkwhile replied. "If I was to pick a place, though, I would say in her sampler. Completing a needlework picture was one way a young lady learned to master a variety of stitches. Proficiency with needle and thread was not a hobby back then, it was a necessity. Most samplers were embroidered under the direction of an instructress while attended young woman's academy. There were a variety of regional differences in these schools. As a result, we have been left with a wide range of artistic samplers today. Experts can often assign a sampler to a region, or even a particular school by the style of stitching and design elements. Dealers and collectors prefer them signed and dated. Commonly, alphabets and rows of numbers were stitched in. Buildings, animals, trees, and borders of flowers and vines, were often included as well. Framed American schoolgirl samplers can fetch hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Providing they are in good original condition, colorful, and graphically pleasing. A young woman's sampler was her mark on the world-the pinnacle work of her education.
With that, Sherlock Holmes began tearing about the house running from room to room. Minutes later, he produced Anna's sampler, framed under glass. She signed and dated it, 1808. It had three rows of neatly stitched letters and numbers at the top and a verse in the center which young Sherlock read aloud.
Always Moving Forward - Forever Standing Still
Hid Within Youth's Enemy
To Be Discovered Nil
Sherlock Holmes eyes lit up like lanterns. "We have solved our mystery, Thinkwhile! Time ... time is the answer! Anna wove a clue which will lead us right to her web."
The antique dealer scratched his head as followed his friend to the pallor where the Roxbury tall clock stood ticking away. Sherlock removed the hood and ran his hand along the back of the clock face feeling two pins. There, he found a dusty yellow envelope containing the missing poem. A tear formed on his cheek.
"By God Holmes, you've found Bryant's poem, why do you mope?"
"Because, we shall never find poor Anna's."