Only three 19th century samplers depicting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are believed to still exist and, of those, two are the work of a young Pennsylvania public school girl named Elizabeth Leoser. One of her works was purchased by the State Museum of Pennsylvania in 1989. CAP Curator Amy Frey selected this artifact as this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure.
Elizabeth Leoser was born on May 29, 1820 in Berks County, the third of Jacob and Sarah Leoser’s four children. After her father was killed in an accident at his iron furnace in 1823, Elizabeth and her siblings were raised by a succession of family members. Based on an inscription stitched at the bottom of her map samplers, Elizabeth attended Philadelphia’s recently formed Penn Township Public School. She created her first map sampler in July 1831. Her second map sampler, now held in the State Museum’s Community and Domestic Life collections, is dated Feb. 24, 1832.
Elizabeth stitched her Pennsylvania map on linen fabric with cotton and wool threads. She outlined each county in silk thread and noted the county seat with a circled “x”. Mountain ridges are embroidered in brown wool, and bodies of water are in-filled with blue threads. Elizabeth also included latitude and longitude lines stitched in black thread. She finished her map with a border of 15 bands of different colored wool thread and the inscription: “Elizabeth Leoser done in the 12th year of her age. February 24th, 1832. Penn Township Public School./JA Byrne, Instructress.”
Elizabeth likely traced or copied the design of her stitched map directly from a contemporary published map of the state. S. Augustis Mitchell’s 1831 “Map of Pennsylvania New Jersey and Delaware” is similar in both design and size. Anthony Finley’s 1829 map of Pennsylvania also shows similarities in design and labeling. One glaring difference between Elizabeth’s map and Mitchell’s and Finley’s maps is her inclusion of the recently formed Juniata County.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.