Richmond Fire Needlework

image of completed reproduction sampler courtesy the Eye of the Needle blog

I discovered on a needleworking blog today that at one time (1987ish), the Valentine Richmond History Center sold a kit (from an outfit called the Scarlet Letter, which  issues patterns for reproduction samplers–fabulous for anyone interested in historical textiles or material culture!) that was a replica of a needlework sampler in their holdings. The sampler features the alphabet, numerals, and two stanzas of a multi-stanza poem that was widely circulated in a contemporary broadside in 1812. Sally Clark Washington completed the sampler on July 3rd, 1812, and stitched on the bottom features a building (supposedly the theater) that looks very like the image on the broadside. However, instead of flames and smoke billowing from the roof, Sally stitched in trees. I’ve seen images of the original and it is very faded. How fascinating to see what it might have looked like in its original state, commemorating a still fresh tragedy.

This original sampler commemorating the Theater fire is held at the Valentine Richmond History Center. My photo was taken from a poster display and not the original, so not the best quality image.