Nine-year-old Junia Bartlett stitched this sampler of the alphabet in large bold letters around 1819. She chose pinks and blues to start her alphabet but over the years her brilliant pinks have faded to pale beige, and the blues and greens have lost some of their lustrous vibrancy. Luckily conservation allows us to peek at the back of the sampler to see the silky pink, sea-foam green, and Prussian blue she chose for her composition. Junia’s stitching techniques include the common satin stitch in blue, and a less common open work Alsatian stitch in pink. The sampler was gift in 2012 to the New Hampshire Historical Society by Gift of Klaudia S. Shepard.
Junia’s famous grandfather, Josiah Bartlett, was the 4th Governor of New Hampshire and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The family’s wealth and status afforded Junia opportunities to learn and write, and she went on to become the wife of Maine US Representative, Francis O.J. Smith. Junia’s correspondence with her brother Levi Bartlett is part of the Maine Historical Society collections, and--most unusually--she was given author credit alongside her husband on many legal and political documents in the Library of Congress catalog.
It is easy to imagine Junia sitting in the parlor, or on the front porch, stitching away at her sampler, with no idea her writings and work would be saved for almost 200 years and counting. Junia’s sampler is just one of the many pieces of her legacy that museums, libraries, historical societies and conservation specialists are working to preserve.
Museum Textile Services conservator Cara Jordan humidified Junia Bartlett's sampler to deacidify it and allow it to be safely blocked to square using pins. She then hand stitched the sampler to a fabric-covered, archival support to allow it to be safely displayed by the New Hampshire Historical Society.