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Elsey Earle
Category: Needlework
SubType: Samplers
Origin: America-USA
Era: 19th Century
Height: 13 inches
Width: 12.5 inches
Adam and Eve samplers were rarely made by American schoolgirls and the majority are from New York City and environs. These samplers generally belong to a group made predominantly in the last half of the 18th century in New York and are referred to as the Biblical Samplers as they depict various Biblical scenes including Adam and Eve. Not surprisingly, this influence found its way to Bergen County in northern New Jersey where a previously undocumented instructress, Miss Field, supervised young Elsey Earle as she worked this very appealing and folky rendition of Adam and Eve and the serpent-wrapped apple tree.

The history of the Earle family is unusual as well. Elsey was the daughter of Edward and Sichy (Van Duyn) Earle of the small town of Schraalenburg, near Hackensack. Edward Earle (1757-1825) was a farmer and Loyalist who served as a Captain in the 3rd Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, a volunteer army loyal to the British, from 1776 until the end of the War. At that point he joined the many thousands of other Loyalists who fled to New Brunswick, Canada where they were granted land; indeed, entire towns were established by them. Food, clothing, medicine, tools and materials were provided by the British as well.

In the year 1784 in Maugerville, New Brunswick, Edward married Sichy Van Dyne, the daughter of another Loyalist from New York, Dowe Van Dyne. Ultimately they found their way back to the United States as did many others. Conditions in Canada proved too harsh for these families, many of whom were not ready for the hardships of pioneer life in such a climate. Official documents indicate that Edward and his brother Justus claimed money owed them for land in Bergen County that was confiscated in 1778 and it seems they returned to this area. Elsey was born in 1796 and in 1840 married Tristan Dunham, perhaps as his second wife. They were living in Ontario County, New York in 1850 and she died in 1865.

Elsey set her scene of Adam and Eve on a lawn with hillocks, animals, birds and berry plants providing further animation. Alphabets and small geometric motifs fill the upper portion of the sampler and the border includes six fat Queen's-stitched strawberries flanking the pictorial scene. The inscription includes the name of her teacher and the fact that she working "in Bergen county State of new Jersey." Perhaps other samplers worked at this school will become known.

The sampler was worked in silk on tan linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a mahogany frame with line inlay.

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