Elizabeth Wisler 1845
19th Century American Samplers
Origin and date: Pennsylvania German, 1845
Linen count/finished size: 35 count, 16-1/4″x14-1/4″
Stitches: Cross stitch
Source: The Allentown Art Museum
This sampler is a fine example of work done by Pennsylvania German girls in the early-to-mid nineteenth century. Similar motifs appear on the show towels that decorated kitchen and bedroom doors in these immigrant German households. It is thought that while the show towels were intended for display, the samplers were not. Their purpose harks back to the origin of the sampler as a pattern record, where one could keep one’s favorite designs as a reference to use on future embroidered works, or to share with others. In studying samplers made by members of the same Pennsylvania German families, certain motifs appear over and over again, evidence that designs were indeed shared. For example, the pattern of the heart base with six drooping flowers from Elizabeth Wisler’s sampler probably originated in a sixteenth century pattern book by Peter Quentel: Musterbuch fur Ornamente und Stickmuster. It appears on a circa 1785 Pennsylvania sampler made by Maria Magtalena, evolves slightly into a motif traceable to a 1791 European sampler made by Magdalena Laubachsen, thence to three Pennsylvania German samplers, made by E.F. in 1798, Lidia Anders’ of 1820, and finally Elizabeth Wisler’s of 1845. Pennsylvania German samplers are, in general, quite plain, full of either random or rowed motifs popular in the folk art of that culture: birds, trees, hearts, tulips, crowns, stars, flower-trees, and many variations.