Nancy B. Whitcomb

Nancy B. Whitcomb

Stockbridge, Vermont, 1823


An outstanding sampler exhibiting both great exuberance and delicacy, this was made in 1823 by Nancy B. Whitcomb in Stockbridge, a small rural village in central Vermont. The sampler is inscribed along the bottom, “Wrought by Nancy B. Whitcomb Stockbridge 1823 AE 11.” It has a strong, folk appeal and was accomplished in an unusual palette of teal blue, deep orange and dark greens. Vermont samplers exist in far fewer numbers than those from other New England states and the great majority of those known are less pictorial and far more simple than this one.

Nancy included the name of her teacher directly on her sampler: “Mary Cooper Instructress,” (read at either end of the white fence) and this is the third sampler known to have been worked under her tutelage; two, including Nancy’s, were made in 1823 and one in 1826. They each feature the same house and lawn scene and almost identical free-form side borders and basket of flowers at the top. The sampler made in 1826 by Diana Paine was in the highly regarded collection of Theodore Kapnek (the sampler was then thought to have been made in Stockbridge, Massachusetts but recent research has confirmed Miss Paine to be from Stockbridge, Vermont). It is published as figures 96 and 96a in A Gallery of American Samplers by Glee Krueger when it was exhibited at the Museum of American Folk Art in 1978. These three samplers comprise the finest known group of Vermont samplers.

Born on June 4, 1812, Nancy was the 10th of 14 children born to Branch and Olive (Baker) Whitcomb. The Whitcomb family was well documented in a 1904 published biographical genealogy, which states that Branch served many terms in the state legislature. Nancy’s grandfather, Lot Whitcomb, was one of the early settlers of Stockbridge and was taken prisoner in 1780 during a skirmish with the local Native Americans. Nancy married a physician, Dr. O.T. Houghton of Bakersfield, Vermont and they remained in Bakersfield, which is in northern Vermont. They didn’t have children and Nancy died in 1896.

 A very good assortment of stitches was used to work this sampler - the house is fully worked and the flowers and grapes were done in a handsome long satin stitch. The lettering is very delicate and the verse reads: “Dear Lord protect the female heart / From every vice and treacherous art / And while she labours to improve / O may she feel thy grace and love / Preserve her soul from sin and shame / And in thy book enrol (sic) her name.” This is the same verse as is on the Diana Paine sampler.

Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition with its original color and contrast. It has been conservation mounted and is in a cherry frame with maple beads.

Sampler size: 16¼” x 22¼”          Frame size: 20” x 26”