Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Missing Sampler - Have you Seen It?

I don't normally get emails from detectives every day - but my inbox had an unusual request this week.  A police detective from the Newburyport Police Department contacted me about a cold case he was trying to bring back and solve.

Way back in 2014 as I was working on geneology regarding a set of samplers from Newbury and Newburyport with the curator of the Museum of Old Newbury, I brought out of my folder a picture of a 1820 sampler by Lydia Comb Bartlett to show him.  It was a listing off Ebay.  He was stunned and upset and immediately rushed to the object files.  

The sampler was owned by the museum and had been in storage.  Now I had just shown him that it had been recently sold on Ebay.  Yes, it was missing.  I had also tracked it to a 2011 auction where a better picture was held.  It was reported stolen and unfortunately didn't rise to the level of investigation at the time or as the detective said, it fell though the cracks.  

So the detective contacted me to have me use my knowledge of the sampler field as well as Newbury samplers to help them generate leads.  I have already turned over several as well as notified many who come across collections and large amounts of pictorial data on samplers.  The major sampler dealers are now on the look out.  But he asked if I would put the call out on blogs so many eyes will be checking as well.  The sampler was purchased by someone innocent, not knowing that the sampler was missing from a museum.  And it is pretty clear that the sellers did not know that the sampler was museum property too.   It is very easy for antique material to get back into the market without being noticed and passing hands quickly.  That is why major auction houses and buyers above a certain amount are keen to know the provenance of objects and that is often listed going back into the 19th century on auction listings.  Few people want to buy something that is ill gotten.  

If you know the whereabouts of this sampler.  You can contact:

Joshua Tierney

Newburyport Police Department

(978)462-4411 EXT. 1066


  1. I have put a link to this post on my blog https://needlecase.blogspot.com/
    I hope the sampler is found and is safe.

  2. I was very interested to see this update. I remember reading about this missing sampler MANY years ago and am hoping that this revival of the story will help find the sampler. Thank you Lyn.

  3. Thanks for the great effort you've put into this blog

  4. I'm sure you're way ahead on this thought - have designers who make reproduction sampler patterns been contacted? Even though this went missing years ago, it's quite possible that it's crossed paths with one of them since then .

    I'd certainly buy a pattern for this one. Not overtly religious verse, and that scroll-y feather(?) border...Awesome!