The National Heritage Museum recently acquired this fascinating needlework sampler, which shows the Baltimore Masonic Hall.
Samplers depicting buildings are not rare – many schoolgirls stitched a house on their sampler, and some depicted local public buildings like churches, hospitals or monuments. However, this is the first sampler I’ve seen that features a Masonic building.
The sampler’s maker, Caroline Notherman, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, around 1816. Her father, George Notherman, made and sold shoes and boots in the city between 1814 and 1837. George Notherman was raised a Master Mason in Union Lodge No. 60 in 1824, but demitted, or resigned his membership, in 1829. Caroline Notherman married William Jones Jr. in Baltimore on January 5, 1837. By 1860, the couple had moved to Brooklyn, New York, where William worked as a merchant. According to the U.S. Census that year, their household included thirteen people – their children, a servant and some of Caroline’s relatives.
Caroline stitched the sampler in 1827, when she was about eleven years old. Historic photographs of the Baltimore Masonic Hall show that Caroline’s likeness is recognizable. The building was begun in 1814 and used by the city’s Masons from 1822 to 1868. During that same time, the Federal Court of Baltimore worked on the lower floor. The building was demolished in 1895.
In addition to teaching us about the maker, her family and the Baltimore Masonic Hall, the sampler also illustrates how Freemasonry was understood beyond its male members. Appreciated by families and communities alike, Freemasonry's values made its meeting places and symbols touchstones for all who recognized them.
Do you have a sampler with a Masonic symbol or building? Have you seen any samplers similar to this one? Please let me know by commenting below, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special gratitude to Jason Sentz, Office of the Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Maryland, and to Amy Finkel, for sharing information about the sampler, its maker and her family.
Sampler by Caroline Notherman (b. circa 1816), 1827, Baltimore, Maryland, National Heritage Museum, purchased with the assistance of the Kane Lodge Foundation, 2008.008. Photograph courtesy of M. Finkel & Daughter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.