In August 2010, three related Burlington County, New Jersey schoolgirl samplers returned from conservation by Ruth Van Tassel to the Moorestown Historical Society. Mary French created the oldest of the three. Mary is the only daughter of Robert French and Hannah Warrington. Mary attended the elite Westtown Friends School in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1800. At one time, her sampler ranked as the oldest sampler in existence created at the Westtown School. The French sampler is a fine example of Quaker needlework. Mary used superior quality floss and it has not deteriorated. The tulip bell at the top is a classic Ackworth pattern. The Ackworth School in England was a model for a number of American Quaker schools. Many motifs, symbols, and concepts used on American Quaker schoolgirl samplers originated with the Ackworth School. Digraphs, or pairs of letters to create one sound, appear on this sampler, which is also typical of English and Quaker pieces.
Deborah Warrington, Mary French’s cousin, completed her sampler in 1821. She was the 15th child of John Warrington and the first child by his second wife Susannah Langstaff. Deborah did not attend the Westtown School, but her second sister Susannah did attend. Possibly, Deborah was a fragile child and remained at home. The sampler by Deborah displays several influences: the Westtown School, Burlington County, copied designs from store bought patterns, and original details. Since Deborah most likely studied at home, she combined all of the needlework elements available to her at the time to create her own original design.
Hannah Roberts was the daughter of Mary French and Josiah Roberts. Hannah attended the Brick School in Chester Township, the original name for Moorestown. Hannah completed her sampler in 1826, one year before the great schism that occurred in the Quaker community in 1827. The slightly more liberal Hicksite Friends retained the Brick School, while the Orthodox Friends resumed classes at the home of Joseph Roberts. The floral border on this sampler is a fine example of a Burlington County NJ border. The black floss is deteriorating, due to the use of corrosive American black walnut dye. Since the Revolution, Americans wished to be self-sufficient. Making and dying their floss was part of this self- reliance.
The Smith Cadbury Mansion owned by the Historical Society of Moorestown located at 12 High Street in Moorestown is open for tours on Sundays from 1-4 PM. Free admission and gift shop. For more information www.moorestown.com/community/history or call 856-235- 0353.