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Wisconsin Historical Museum Online Collections

Sampler made by Betsy Manchester, Rhode Island, 1793.
This sampler, made by Betsy Manchester of Rhode Island in 1793, can be found in the online sampler collection.

About the Sampler Tour

Content of the Tour

This tour features 64 samplers from the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Museum. This tour does not include other types of needlework or samplers in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society's historic sites.

The tour contains selected information about each sampler. The first thing you see is a thumbnail image and a brief description of each artifact. Clicking on the thumbnail results in a zoom image. Clicking on the brief description yields more information, including:

  • Catalog number - this is the identification number that the Wisconsin Historical Museum uses to track the object. Please refer to this number in any correspondence with Museum staff.
  • AAT object term - this is what the artifact is called according to the Art and Architecture Thesaurus, a vocabulary created by the J. Paul Getty Trust.
  • Materials/Medium - this is a listing of the materials of which the object is made, in terms used by the Art and Architecture Thesaurus.
  • Detailed description - this is a physical description of the object. Information about the condition is not accessible online at this time.
  • Object history - this is contextual information about the object, its maker, its owner(s), and/or the circumstances surrounding its creation and use. If such information is unknown, the object history does not appear.
  • Dates - these are dates associated with the object's history. Dates may refer to design, manufacture, modification, use, and/or subject.

If you would like more information regarding any of the objects, please contact the Curator of Costumes and Textiles. The Historical Society cannot provide information regarding appraisal values and storage locations.


Organization of the Tour

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The tour consists of lists of object records created from searches of a master database. The searches represent different ways to access the sampler collection – by date, place of manufacture, and type. For those who would like to just browse the collection, there is an "All Samplers" section.

Touring by Date (Decade):

This section organizes the samplers into decades. Exceptions occur for the 18th century and the late 19th century (1870-1900), each of which is treated as one group.

The same sampler can appear in more than one era if it is associated with a date range that straddles these eras. For example, if an object was made sometime between 1850 and 1870, inclusive, then it will appear in the lists for decades 1850-1859, 1860-1869, and 1870-1900. Circa dates frequently result in the placement of an object in more than one era.

When you click on the brief description of an object in a list, you will be able to see the various dates associated with it.

Touring by Place of Manufacture:

In this section the samplers have been organized by country of origin. Those made in the United States have been divided further by state. Two European countries (England and Germany) and eleven states are represented in the collection.

Touring by Type:

This section groups together samplers that share unique characteristics relating to design or sewing technique.

  • Darning and drawn-thread samplers – Samplers that primarily showcase these two sewing techniques rather than embroidery
  • Genealogy samplers – Samplers that list the maker’s family members, sometimes with genealogical information
  • Map samplers – Samplers that depict maps and rarely, if ever, include alphabets and numbers
  • Samplers with buildings depicted
  • Samplers with people depicted
  • Spot motif samplers – Samplers that include small design elements such as hearts, crowns, crosses, and flowers randomly placed, usually in the lower half
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