Silk, linen, steel needles. How would you make a sampler without these items? Or, more appropriately, with what would you replace them if you were boycotting the British manufacture and import of said items?
This sampler was completed by Bethiah Hastings of Lexington at age 8. She would have been just 3 years old at the spinning protest of 1769, but her mother or older sisters may have attended that event to protest British textile imports. The Hastings household may have given up that boycott fervor by 1774 and Bethiah may have used items imported from England for this sampler.
Or Bethiah may have completed the sampler on New England linen using silk thread and steel needles that predated the Townsend Acts. Wool thread from local sheep would have been available, and possibly needles made of horn or bone. Neither silk weaving nor steelmaking were sufficiently advanced by 1774 in New England to say for sure if she could have accessed local needles or silk.
We have no way of knowing where its component pieces came from, but considering this one object helps us understand how the trade conflicts with England may have affected everyday life for patriot women in Lexington.
How many of your favorite items are imported? How would you feel if you no longer had access to them?
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.