The Host Files – Kathryn’s Favourite Artifact

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between!

By Kathryn H., Visitor Host

Aged 14; so talented with a needle and thread; I often wonder who she was and what happened to her? An artifact we are so fortunate to have.

The  artifact that I am referring to is in the parlor in the Henry House which  caught my eye many years ago when I came to the Oshawa Museum and it has kept my attention ever since. Not only is it a treasured piece at the museum but it  provides for me as a Visitor Host much to talk about with my audience when on tours.

970.34.1 – Jean Dick Sampler

The sampler I am referring to is in the parlor on the south wall done by…

Jean Dick, aged 14. Dated Jun 1801c

To give you a little history into samplers, in the 1800s and earlier a young girl was expected by the early age of 5 or 6 to start to learn the skills of sewing. This was achieved by making a sampler. The sampler was done with basic cross stitches with different colored threads sewn on linen, the stitches would be stitches in form of  the alphabet and numbers and was taught to her my mother or grandmother. Thus, two lessons were learned by this sewing tutorial. The purpose was that once she was married and had her own family she would have the skills be able to provide clothing for them.  The first was with working with a needle and thread, and second learning the alphabet and numbers.

Later in a young girls life a second sampler might be required of her; however, the purpose was entirely different from the first required sampler.   If she was fortunate to be born into an “upper-working” family she would be sent to a “dame school” for young girls to learn the arts of being a lady. The lessons would include etiquette, music, painting and a second sampler. The sampler would be decorative and would proclaim the family’s religious beliefs and values. The sampler once done would be proudly displayed in the parlor to display to possible suitors the talents of their daughter and as well to boost to others that they had the financial means to send their daughter to a dame school!

I also embroider; however, I do it in my leisure. I take delight in working with a needle and thread.  I have a respect for Jean Dick for her skill and appreciate the hours she had put into this piece of work we have in Henry House.

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The Henry House Parlour, with Jean Dick’s Sampler proudly on display

Luckily for me my samplers were never required to woo my suitor!


Want to know more about Jean Dick and her family? Her husband, John Dickie, was a participant in the 1837 rebellion, and you can read about him HERE

You can also listen to our podcast about John Dickie and the 1837 Rebellion HERE


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