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Sampler made at the New York African Free School

Object Name: Sampler
Date: 1820
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Medium: Silk on wool
Dimensions: Overall: 12 x 13 in. (30.5 x 33 cm) Framed: 14 × 15 in. (35.6 × 38.1 cm)
Place made: United States, New York
Description: Wool sampler worked with silk thread; central verse, "Truth," surrounded by Quaker-style motifs, including baskets of fruit, flower urns, and vines.
Credit Line: Purchased through the generosity of the Monsky family, the Coby Foundation, Barbara Knowles Debs and Richard A. Debs, Patricia D. Klingenstein, Nancy Newcomb and John Hargraves, Charles Phillips, Pam B. Schafler, Sue Ann Weinberg, and the Goins Family Fund
Object Number: 2011.9
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Marks: Stitched below verse: "Rosena Disery, aged 15 years, / New York African Free / school. April 1820"

Gallery Label:

This sampler was stitched by Rosena Disery (1805-1877) in 1820 when she was a student at the New York African Free School. Although both girls and boys attended the African Free School from its founding in 1787, needlework instruction was not added to the curriculum until 1791. The sewing program was modeled closely on the curriculum at the Quaker-run Female Association Schools. Rosena's sampler was produced under the tutelage of Miss Mary Lincrum, who had been educated at a Female Association School.

The verse stitched by Rosena was excerpted from the poem "Self-Love and Truth Incompatible," originally penned by the French mystic Madame Guyon (1648-1717) and published by William Cowper (1731-1800) in 1779. Surrounding the poem are Quaker-style motifs, such as baskets of fruit, flower urns, and vines.

Student needlework was regularly exhibited at the African Free School's public examination days as proof of the students' accomplishments. A schoolgirl's sampler was akin to her diploma, and would later be proudly displayed in her home. In addition to improving manual dexterity, the stitching of samplers provided moral instruction and encouraged literacy.

Rosena Disery prospered after graduating from the African Free School. She married Peter Van Dyke (1796-1869), a successful cook and caterer who owned a house at 133 Wooster Street. Van Dyke was a prominent figure in New York City's black community and a member of the vestry at St. Philip's Church. The couple became tremendously wealthy and left their son an inheritance of $120,000 in 1877. The family's prominence is also manifest in the soaring obelisk in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery that marks the grave of Peter and Rosena Van Dyke.

Provenance:

Rosena Disery Van Dyke (1805-1877); descent unknown; purchased by a private collector at a Texas shop between 1930 and 1950; bequeathed by the collector to her granddaughter; consigned by her to M. Finkel & Daughter, Philadelphia; purchased by N-YHS, 2011.