1958.2879 Sampler, 1966.1397 Frame, view 1
  • 1958.2879 Sampler, 1966.1397 Frame, view 1
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Sampler (Pictorial sampler)

  • Category:

    Textiles (Needlework)

  • Creator (Role):

    Susan Smith (Maker)

    Mary Balch (School mistress)

  • Place of Origin:

    Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, New England, United States, North America

  • Secondary Place of Origin:

    Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, New England, United States, North America

  • Date:


  • Materials:

    Linen; Silk

  • Techniques:

    Embroidered, Woven (plain)

  • Museum Object Number:


  • Complete Details

Object Number


Object Name

Sampler (Pictorial sampler)


Textiles (Needlework)

Credit Line/Donor

Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont

Creator (Role)

Susan Smith (Maker)
05/09/1783-after 1853
Susan Smith was born May 9, 1783 to parents Job Smith (1736-1818) and Ruth Harris Smith (1740-1820) of Providence, Rhode Island. Job was in the distilling business in Providence. Susan was the 9th and youngest child in a Quaker family. Susan worked this pictorial sampler at ten years old while in attendance at The Balch School. The dates of October 29, 1793 and May 9, 1794 probably indicate when she started and when she finished working on it. At the age of 43, she became the second wife of Episcopalian Nathan Brown of Johnston, Rhode Island. They married on July 16, 1826. Susan died sometime after 1853.

Mary Balch (School mistress)
Samplers in Mary Balch's school in Providence were the first American embroideries to receive wide recognition as a distinctive group from a specific school, and they continue to be the most renowned samplers made under an identified instructress. Mary Balch (1762-1831), often called Polly, was the daughter of the Newport tailor Timothy Balch (1725-1776) and Sarah Rogers (1735-1811). Her parents moved to Providence on the eve of the British occupation of Newport in 1776, and her father died within the year, leaving Sarah with four children and an insolvent estate. To help her mother support the family, Mary probably began teaching before she was twenty in 1782. The earliest sampler attributed to her school was dated March 1785. On August 10, 1801, Mary opened a boarding school in her new house on George Street. Her curriculum expanded from needleworking to include writing, music, and dancing. Advertisements for her school continued up through 1826. In 1821, hers was unquestionably the best-attended private school in Providence with an enrollment of 113 students. Mary was respected by her patrons and students and was known for her kindness, grace, prudence, and propriety. (Ring, Betty. Girlhood Embroidery, Vol. 1, pp178-185)

Place of Origin

Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, New England, United States, North America

Secondary Place of Origin

Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, New England, United States, North America



Mark or Signature or Inscription or Label

1. Inscription; on sampler; "Let Virtue be a Guide to thee / Octr. 29. / 1793. / Susan Smith / Was born May 28, 1783 and / wrought this May 9, 1794" (embroidered silk threads)


Linen; Silk


Embroidered, Woven (plain)

Dimensions (inches)

16.75 (L) , 16.75 (W)

Dimensions (centimeters)

42.545 (L) , 42.545 (W)

Measurement Notes

Dimensions refer to area of needlework visible within frame. 28 holes to the inch on the canvas ground.

Object Description

Web - 09/17/2014

This is a linen pictorial sampler worked with silk threads in 1794 by Susan Smith while attending The Balch School in Providence, Rhode Island. Founder and schoolmistress Mary Balch is one of the most recognized needlework instructors of the 18th century. The work of her students is exceptional and sought after by many collectors today. Susan Smith's sampler is a good example of the delicate and artistic quality of Balch School needlework. While needlework patterns vary greatly, similar motifs and techniques are recognizable. Susan's sampler, for example, is similar to one worked by Mary Tillinghast in 1796, who also attended The Balch School. Like Susan, Mary Tillinghast features the First Baptist Meeting House in Providence. Motifs such as flying birds and large border roses are nearly identical to those both found in Susan's and Mary's samplers. Susan's sampler also includes aphorisms commonly found on Balch-school samplers. The inscription reads: "Let Virtue be A Guide to thee / Octr. 29, 1793. / S S / Susan Smith / Was born May 28, 1783 and / Wrought this May 9 1794 / In thy fair Book of life divine My God inscribe this Name / There let it fill some humble Place Beneath the slaughter'd Lamb"

Bibliography and Bibliographic Notes

[Book] Swan, Susan Burrows. 1977 Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1700-1850.
Published: p. 42, 44, fig. 16
[Book] Swan, Susan Burrows. 1995 Plain and Fancy: American Women and their Needlework, 1650-1850.
Published: p. 44, 45, fig. 17
[Book] Ring, Betty. 1993 Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850. I.
Sampler with similar characteristics: p. 180, fig. 205
[Book] Ring, Betty. 1983 Let Virtue be a Guide to Thee.
Published: p. 128, fig. 38
[Book] Swan, Susan Burrows. 1976 A Winterthur Guide to American Needlework.
Published: p. 34, Plate II