Origin and date: Massachusetts, late 18th-early nineteenth centuries
Linen count: 35 count
Finished size 9 1/2″x13 1/2″
Stitches: Cross, stem filling, Queen, outline and counted satin
RUTHY ROGERS’s bewitching composition features a piquant wasp waisted, floral-crowned figure amid giant blossoms and curious birds. Unfettered by instructive alphabets or pious maxims, it suggests a happy schoolroom of little girls guided by a cheerful and imaginative schoolmistress. This sampler represents one of four fascinating forms that emerged in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but which eluded the recognition of collectors and scholars throughout most of the twentieth century until an appealing piece by Betsy Gail appeared at auction in 1980. It featured a winsome figure in profile, much like another in a then unpublished 1789 sampler by Hannah Stacy. Both the Gail and Stacy families have been traced to Marblehead, and the recognition of Marblehead’s exceptional samplers grew quickly.
The Marblehead samplers are now attributed to schoolmistress Martha Tarr Barber (1734-1812), although few specific facts about her teaching have been found. She evidently commenced keeping school after having become a widow for the second time in 1780. Eventually the Barber school spanned the entire Federal period, for Martha’s youngest daughter, Miriam, born in 1775, became her mother’s assistant and continued teaching until her death in 1830.
Ruthy Rogers was the daughter of Marblehead tailor William Rogers (1747-1835) and Ruth Vickery (1751- ?). She married shipmaster Benjamin Andrews Jr (1775-1821) on June 28, 1799, and died of consumption on May 4, 1812, at age 34. She was survived by three of their five children. Her husband married Mary L. Smith of Salem on November 25, 1812, and one of their three sons lived to adulthood. Captain Andrews drowned off Sumatra “by Overseting the Boat.”
Stitches used in Ruthy’s sampler are cross, stem filling, Queen, outline and counted satin. On 35-count linen the reproduction will most closely approximate the size of the original: 9 1/2″ x 13 1/2″. The project is recommended for more advanced needleworkers.