Boston 1775 reader Judy Cataldo alerted our vast editorial staff to this post at Independent Needlework News, challenging people to find a particular sampler. Heather wrote:
Cynthia Cotten states in her Afterword that Abbie in Stitches was inspired by the story of Patty Polk, whom I wrote about recently in a similar vein, and whom she first read about in a 1921 book by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe called American Samplers which, “…mentioned a sampler stitched around 1800 that said, ‘Patty Polk did this and she hated every stitch she did in it. She loves to read much more.’” Cynthia, too, was, “intrigued by this girl’s outspokenness at a time when most samplers dealt seriously, and often depressingly, with duty and death.”Here’s what I could find about the Patty Polk sampler. The appendix to American Samplers listed it this way:
Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, Cynthia also says, “Nobody I contacted knew the whereabouts of this sampler. Today, many people doubt its existence, saying it might just be a needlework legend.” I choose to believe in certain fairy tales, and if this is one of them, then so be it.
But I have a challenge for you … Help me locate Patty Polk’s sampler. If it ever existed, then it is out there somewhere in some lucky collector’s hands. Let’s find it! Post anything you know about her sampler here!
Polk, Patty. [Cir. 1800. Kent County, Md.] 10 yrs. 16" x 16". Stem-stitch. Large garland of pinks, roses, passion flowers, nasturtiums, and green leaves; in center, a white tomb with “GW” on it, surrounded by forget-me-nots. “Patty Polk did this and she hated every stitch she did in it. She loves to read much more.”The “GW” on the tomb would appear to refer to the death of George Washington in late 1799, hence the estimated date. That book was published by the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America, which had solicited information about samplers from antiquarians all over America.
Mrs. Frederic Tyson
Various Google archives of materials from the Daughters of the American Revolution offer clues to “Mrs. Frederic Tyson” and how she might have known of the sampler. She was Florence McIntyre Tyson, active in the Maryland chapter. According to the D.A.R.’s American Monthly Magazine, she was living at 251 Preston Street West in Baltimore in 1906. Tyson’s mother was Martha E. Polk, and may thus have been related to Patty Polk. Tyson also supplied the description of another sampler credited to Martha Surburough Polk; Patty was a common nickname for Martha.
However, Tyson is also linked to a famously misleading historical document. In 1898, the D.A.R. magazine identified her as the current owner of the earliest copy of the Mecklenburg Declaration, supposedly a source for the Declaration of Independence but actually created decades later out of hazy memories and hopefulness. Thus, Tyson may not have been the best judge of genuine early American artifacts.