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Stitches in Time:  Huntington Samplers

Kirsten Rohrs stated in her Master’s Thesis on Long Island Samplers at the Cooper Hewitt that “the most substantial and important group (of samplers) are twenty-nine from the Huntington Historical Society, in Huntington, on the North Shore of Suffolk County.”  The number of samplers in this collection is probably due to the existence of the Huntington Academy where many local young women learned their skills.



Prior to the opening of the Academy System of schooling on Long Island, children were educated in their own homes or in the one room school house.  Some women, particularly adept at needlework, taught classes to groups of young women.  These teachers were called “Dames”.  There was, however, a need for a more formal approach to children’s education.  That is when the Academy System was developed.  The Academies taught various subjects other than reading and writing. 

It is important to note that “children’s education” in the late 18th and early 19th century refers to boys.  The Academies, however, perhaps because they were usually private offered courses focusing on the domestic arts for young women.  It was important for them to learn to sew in order to make their clothing and other necessities for their homes. 

The Huntington Academy was the fourth to open on Long Island.  It was located across from the existing Old First Presbyterian Church extant today.   There is an historical marker indicating the site of the school.  Many local young women attended that school which became known for its textile arts with the passage of time.

 Sampler making taught young women how to make fancy stitches.  Samplers contain numerals, the alphabet, in many forms, i.e. upper and lower case, printing and in script.  Therefore, a concomitant outcome was that they learned the foundations of reading and arithmetic while perfecting their stitches.  The presence of verses on the samplers also indicates exposure to reading, and in many cases fine literature.