One of the National Heritage Museum’s Solomon’s Temple samplers is the cover star for the new issue (Winter 2011) of Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly magazine! Pictured below, the sampler was stitched by Margaret Jane Leadbitter in 1846 in Sandoe, England.
My interest in Solomon’s Temple samplers began when I started working at the museum in 2006 and quickly came across three samplers in the collection that depict the temple. Leadbitter’s depiction of the temple is prominently placed at the center of her sampler and is clearly identified by her stitched inscription “South View of Solomons Temple.”
Established in 1975, as a gift to the American people from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., the museum collects objects and documents to support the interpretation of the historical, social and cultural role of Freemasonry, fraternal organizations and voluntary associations in America. The sampler was donated to the Museum in 1980 by Mr. and Mrs. James S. Demond in honor of Gertrude and John D. Lombard (1906-1985). They made the gift around the time that the Museum purchased a second Solomon’s Temple sampler made by Mary Sandiford in 1840 (see below at left). A history of the Museum’s early years explains that building the collection was a priority at that time, “as often as possible we purchased Masonic items that came on the market, and solicited gifts from known owners of fine Masonic material.” An anonymous donor gave a third Solomon’s Temple sampler to the Museum.
These three samplers were added to the collection undoubtedly because they were considered to be “Masonic” through their inclusion of the Temple, so central to Masonic ritual and teachings. Indeed, in the case of the Leadbitter sampler, the donor and his honoree were both Freemasons who received the Scottish Rite’s 33rd degree. However, as I started to study the samplers, I began to question whether they were “Masonic” and whether they were even American. Today, I would not classify them as “Masonic samplers.” Instead, I think that the makers included the Temple on the samplers as a symbol of virtue. To date, I have located descriptions of over 60 of these samplers, with none that can be conclusively documented as having been made in the United States.
The results of my research on these samplers are detailed in the magazine, based on a scholarly paper I presented in 2008 at the “Expressions of Freemasonry” conference in The Hague, The Netherlands. In addition, by working with magazine staff, a chart of the Leadbitter sampler is included in the magazine, so that stitchers can make their own reproduction, approximating the size and colors of the original. To order a copy of the magazine, visit its website.
Freemasonry was not formed in a vacuum - instead, it drew from values and ideas espoused by the surrounding society and culture - as it formed in England during the 1710s and 1720s and throughout the next 150 years. By analyzing the samplers as a representation of shared ideals between Freemasonry and the larger culture of 19th-century Britain and America, we can see that the expression of Masonic ideology was spreading out into the communities where it was practiced.
Sampler, 1846, Margaret Jane Leadbitter, Sandoe, England. Collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James DeMond in honor of Gertrude and John D. Lombard, 80.49.1. Photograph by John M. Miller.
Sampler, 1840, Mary Sandiford, England. Collection of the National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 80.27.1.