Ruth Milner, Quaker,

Ruth Milner, Quaker,

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1826
Provenance: Collection of Susan B. Swan

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sampler size: 17¼” x 17¾” • framed size: 19½” x 20” • sold

This is a handsome and very finely worked sampler displaying strong Quaker characteristics. The composition centers on a classic Extract verse within an extraordinary flowering vine enclosure, which is anchored at its base in a sawtooth patterned pot and at the top with a yellow ribbon tied in a bowknot. Flower sprays, birds and butterflies embellish the areas outside of the vine, with one of the butterflies drawn onto the linen but not stitched. Ruth’s sister, Jane Milner, worked a very similar and equally fine sampler in 1830 and included the initials of their parents, Cyrus and Sarah Milner, on her sampler. Interestingly, Jane also didn’t finish her sampler.

The family of Cyrus Milner (1782-1859) had ties to Friends Meetings in Wilmington, Delaware, Cecil County, Maryland and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where Cyrus married Sarah Carter in 1805. They had nine children, beginning with Ruth who was born in 1807. Jane was their fifth child, born in 1813. All of their births are recorded in the minutes of the Little Britain Monthly Meeting, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Ruth and Jane likely attended a Quaker school in the area. Notably, their samplers resemble other fine Quaker samplers made in New Jersey and Delaware, a result of the fact that teachers within this Friends community moved from Meeting to Meeting and school to school, sharing patterns as they taught. The specific font of the lettering on the Milner samplers may be the one constant, appearing on Quaker samplers made in the United Kingdom and throughout the United States, from the late 18th century through the first four decades of the 19th century.

In 1829, Ruth Milner married John Pierce, a non-Quaker, and she was disowned by the Friends Meetings  in 1830. Nine years later she was allowed to rejoin and did so to the Fallowfield Meeting. Ruth and John had a son and a daughter, and John died in 1840. Ruth died in 1860 and is buried in the Doe Run Friends Cemetery with family members.

Significantly, this sampler was in the personal collection of the late Susan B. Swan for many years and then was passed onto her son who owned it until just recently. Mrs. Swan was the long-term curator of textiles and needlework at Winterthur Museum and author of Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework 1650-1850 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977).

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted into a cherry frame. 

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