1803 Martha Oliser “Birds” sampler with stag and alphabets

This English motif and alphabet sampler was worked by 15-year-old Martha Oliser in 1803 and features the old, long-form “s” that looks like an “f.” The linen is relatively coarse and has finished selvedge edges along all four sides. The silk thread colors have softened to muted tones of blue, green, gold and beige.

At the sampler’s center is the single word “Birds” above a pair of birds flanking a flowering basket. An unusual resting stag with a chained collar is opposite a more typical, smaller stag with a variety of scattered foliate motifs. More scattered creatures include several dogs (or horses?) and two tiny blue beasties that I think might be billy goats. The bottom line reads “Martha Oliser Aged 15 January 16 1803– look closely at the date; at first glance it appears to read “January 1618” but there’s a “0” and a “3” above the 1618, tucked under the tree branches. Martha ran out of space!

There are some condition issues including several holes, a large not-very-skilled-mend and a large discolored area; I’ve shown it on a white backing so the flaws are more visible but once it’s backed with matching linen or mounted on a neutral background, the holes will be much less apparent. The linen is still supple and there’s no thread loss.

The sampler measures 16-1/4″ square.