Nancy B. Whitcomb,

Nancy B. Whitcomb,

Stockbridge, Vermont, 1823

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sampler size: 16¼” x 22¼” • frame size: 20” x 26” • sold

This outstanding, large sampler, made in 1823 by Nancy B. Whitcomb in Stockbridge, a small town in central Vermont, exhibits both great exuberance and wonderful refinement. It is inscribed along the bottom, “Wrought by Nancy B. Whitcomb Stockbridge 1823 AE 11.” 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 simpler 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 there are two other very similar samplers known to have been worked in Stockbridge and under Mary Cooper’s tutelage; they are dated 1824 and 1826. They each feature the same house and lawn scene, 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. It is published as figures 96 and 96a in A Gallery of American Samplers by Glee Krueger, and was exhibited at the Museum of American Folk Art in 1978. These three samplers are certainly amongst the finest of all known Vermont samplers.

Born on June 4, 1812, Nancy was tenth of the fourteen children born to Branch and Olive (Baker) Whitcomb. The Whitcomb Family in America, A Biographical Genealogy by Charlotte Whitcomb (Minneapolis, MN, 1904) provides much information about this family. Branch Whitcomb was a prominent Stockbridge resident who served many terms in the Vermont legislature and was the constable of Stockbridge. 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 resided in Bakersfield, which is in northern Vermont. They didn’t have children and Nancy died in 1896; she is buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Stockbridge along with many family members.

Our Whitcomb sampler boasts excellent composition and pleasing proportion. Additionally, the workmanship is very fine - the house is fully worked and the flowers and grapes were done in a handsome long satin stitch. It was accomplished in an unusual palette of teal blue, deep orange and dark greens. 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 that Diana Paine stitched on her Stockbridge 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.

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