When Child's Play Was Work - Samplers were very commonly found in all Canadian homes in pioneer times. These were the practice patches of cloth on which young girls honed their needlework skills before tackling the task of making real clothes and bed coverings for the family.

They practiced their embroidery stitches on samplers with biblical quotations, wise sayings, poetry, the alphabet or simple pictures. The samplers were made on linen or wool cloth and were embroidered with wool or silk thread.

Samplers were of course, also produced by British girls long before pioneers from the British Isles ever came to settle in Canada.

When families emigrated to Canada they brought their family possessions with them. Little girls brought their samplers. So many samplers found in Canada today were actually made by girls still living in Britain, long before their parents decided to uproot them and bring them to a new home in the wilds of Canada. So British samplers that turn up at Canadian auctions are quite legitimate as Canadiana.

The first five samplers in this collection are fabulous because they all belonged to one family and were kept together by the descendants.

Of special charm are the matching samplers from sisters Jessie and Fanny Evans.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Elizabeth Margarita Robinson, Oct 28, 1741
Orig. sampler - Size - 23 x 26 cm
Found - Milton, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Jessie Evans, 1869
Orig. sampler - Size - 21 x 22 cm
Found - Milton, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Fanny Evans, Dorrington School, 1870
Orig. sampler - Size - 21 x 21 cm
Found - Milton, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Jessie Evans, Dorrington, 1871
Orig. sampler - Size - 21 x 23 cm
Found - Milton, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Fannie Evans, Dorrington, May 1872
Orig. sampler - Size - 21 x 24 cm
Found - Milton, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Emma Kemp, Parham Hall, June 27, 1817
Orig. sampler - Size - 23 x 29 cm
Found - Niagara Falls, ON
This is another example of a British sampler that was brought to Canada in the early 19th century by a different family who settled in the Niagara peninsula. Emma Kemp was only eight when she made it. It was framed more than a hundred years ago - when it already was ancient - with square nails and wavy glass.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, 1896
Orig. sampler - Size - 36 x 41 cm
Found - St. Catharines, ON
This sampler shows that as late as 1896 girls were still practicing their embroidery, instead of their typing...

This sampler has been in this frame, probably from the beginning; the glass is wavy 19th century, and the frame is ancient, and also looks like it was made to reflect the proportions of the sampler, instead of being recut later. All ways to help identify the age of a piece about which you may have doubts. It was also bought at an estate sale, not in an antique shop or from a reseller.

But then this sampler is new compared to most antique samplers one finds - shown by all the other ones on this page.

This is pretty well the end of the antique sampler period. Girls really did start to learn to type instead, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sampler, Lucy Boult, 1854
Orig. sampler - Size - 23 x 29 cm
Found - Niagara Falls, ON
Lucy Boult was only seven when she worked on this sampler. This is a rare piece because, knowing who she was, we know it was made by her in Canada in 1854.

So What's it Worth?

The one below sold at auction for $6,500
at Kingston, Ontario, Aug. 19, 2006.

So What's it Worth?

The 1840s "Church Family Registry Sampler" below
sold for $15,400
at the Marjorie Larmon Auction at Simcoe, Ontario
Sept. 23, 2006.

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Fabrics Page 2

Great Canadian Samplers

Great Canadian Pioneer Samplers - 1741-1896

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Memorial Sampler, Mary Kershaw, Dec. 13, 1847
Orig. sampler - Size - 65 x 65 cm
Found - Dundas, ON
Prov - the McLaren Estate

The finest memorial sampler we have ever seen, in memory of Mary Kershaw, a member of the founding family of Canada Steamship Lines.

It is huge, and after 160 years still in fine shape.

In the nineteenth century, in Canada, it was tragically true that for every family "In the midst of life, we are in death."

Mary's final days were not easy; death - as recounted in the poem - probably a welcome relief. Nevertheless she was deeply mourned: the tears falling liberally from the heavens on her grave over which even the trees are bowed with grief.

The death rate at the time was enormous, especially among the young. Mary Kershaw lived to what was considered a ripe old age, and died at 65.

Today, with improved health care, better food and excercise, we believe the average person should be good for another twenty years.