Emenda Deischer,

Emenda Deischer,

Berks County, Pennsylvania, 1852

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sampler size: 11” x 9¼” • framed size: 13” x 11¼” • sold

The distinctive samplers made by Pennsylvania Germans frequently offer an unusual and appealing aesthetic. Compositions can include floating motifs and alphabets that are also freeform, worked without the horizontal bands that function as guide lines. The pictorial elements are often very tightly accomplished, and the linen ground fabric can be of an equally tight weave. Some of the samplermakers used a particular and pleasing palette of two colors, red and blue, worked onto a stark, natural white linen. These characteristics may seem simple on the surface but when the makers were highly disciplined in their work, the samplers exhibit an overall and uncommon sophistication. Emenda Deischer’s sampler is an excellent example of this genre, with every stitch contributing to its visual strength.

The daughter of Peter and Maria Deischer, Emenda was the 7th of their 8 children, born on June 17, 1833. The family descended from Jacob Deischer, Sr. who was born in Germany in 1731, and at age two years sailed with his family from Rotterdam to Philadelphia. History of Berks County, Pennsylvania by Morton Luther Montgomery (Reading, Pennsylvania, 1894) notes that the family settled in Richmond Township, later in Muxatawny and Hereford Townships. The Deischers were a prominent family in the area and intermarried with Schwenkfelders and other sects. In 1850, Peter and Maria and their children resided in Hereford Township. Records show Emenda also used the more Anglicized spelling, Amanda, at times. Sadly, she died on October 17, 1856 and is buried in nearby Zions Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lehigh County, along with her parents and some of her siblings.

Most of the pictorial motifs are classic Pennsylvania German ones - potted flowers, birds, dogs, hearts and stars. However, one that Emenda included - a particularly tall-legged chair – intrigued us as it is a specific form, a 19th century weaver’s chair. Interesting, the family that lived next to the Deischers, according to the same 1850 census, included three weavers and this household must have provided the source of that unusual element on this sampler.

We note that Emenda was 19 years old when she worked her sampler; her age likely contributed to her advanced skill and discipline. The initials MS that appear at the bottom the samplers may have those of Emenda’s teacher or mentor. Below is an image of the reverse of the sampler for an interesting study in the technique and great care that went into the execution of this piece. Also of interest is the fact that Pennsylvania German samplermakers continued to work in the early style for many years beyond the 1840s and 50s. It was the retardataire nature of their culture that held onto traditions, indeed deeply into the 20th century.

The sampler was worked in linen on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a 19th century frame.

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