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c. 1850
Anna Henrietta Miller (1839–1923), maker
textile (cotton?), coloured thread (unidentified)
Purchased with funds from the Public Donation Fund, 2008
37.5 h x 15.7 w cm



The sampler was purchased in 2008 at auction in Hobart by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery with funds from the Public Donation Fund.


The original function of samplers was as portable compendiums of designs for imitation. In the sixteenth century, as embroidery became a desirable accomplishment for young ladies, their function shifted to that of displaying the skills and invention of the maker. From the seventeenth century, samplers became part of the standard education of young ladies. The embroidering of alphabets and numbers had the dual function of teaching literacy and numeracy as well as the practical arts of stitching. The use of the cross-stitch, also known as sampler stitch, is typical of the nineteenth century.

The maker of this sampler, Anna Henrietta Miller, was born in Hobart on 11 August 1839. She was the sixth of ten children born to Reverend Fredrick Miller (1806–62) and his wife Elizabeth Miller (1808–?). Fredrick Miller was the first settled Independent or Congregational minister in Tasmania, having been sent to Hobart at the request of one of the island’s most successful businessmen, Henry Hopkins and his wife, Sarah. Anna Henrietta never married and remained at home to look after her parent’s household and, later, the orphaned children of her older sister Susanna Augusta Dawes.

Anna Henrietta Miller’s sampler is typical of those from the mid-nineteenth century. The design—incorporating alphabets and numbers as well as simple formal patterns and executed in plain cross-stitch—was intended to teach letters and numbers as well as sewing and embroidery skills.


A long, rectangular sampler with letters, numbers and formal repeating patterns in cross-stitch on a ground of plain, coarsely woven linen. The sampler is divided into horizontal bands comprised of an upper and a lower case alphabet, each over several lines. These lines are divided by bands of abstract pattern, including a simple zigzag, a Greek key motif, plain crosses and simplified vines.

Below the alphabets is a single row of numbers, 1–11, separated from the letters by a double row of fine crosses. The lower third of the sampler is occupied by three bands of highly formalised, repeating floral patterns in several colours. These are graded in size from the finest to the largest along the lower edge. The colours are faded with the green thread remaining most clearly distinguishable.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of Tasmanian colonial decorative arts. This includes items made in Tasmania from 1803 through until 1901. The making of samplers was an important activity in the education of young women in nineteenth-century Britain and continued to be so in the Tasmanian colony. This sampler is of very simple design and embroidered on inexpensive, coarsely woven fabric, perhaps reflecting the sober, Protestant values of the Congregational Church. Its predominantly educational rather than aesthetic function is clear and the stitching has been executed carefully and neatly. The Miller sampler demonstrates the persistence of British cultural practices in the Australian colonies in the mid-nineteenth century and the use of sewing activities to encourage young girls to learn by doing.


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© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 1 July, 2010