Samoan Sampler (Samoa)

Sampler from Samoa, mid-19th century. Sampler from Samoa, mid-19th century. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum, acc. no. Oc1848,0216.1.

In the British Museum, London (Oc1848,0216.1), there is a sampler that comes from a missionary school in Samoa, one of the Pacific Ocean group of islands. It is 31 x 21 cm in size and dates to about 1844. The sampler is in a traditional, North European form with rows of letters and numbers worked in cross stitch using red and blue woollen thread on a linen ground.

The long text at the bottom of the sampler is Biblical and is apparently written in a form of Samoan in Latin alphabet (Aposetolo = Apostles, Galuega = Acts), ending in the reference X.II.8. According to the Museum registration department it is a: "Sampler worked by the natives of Samoa (Navigator's Island)."

Further details are provided by the Museum’s British and Medieval Register 1757-1878, p. 92: "Sampler worked by the natives of Samoa (Navigators Island). Presented by Capt Sir Everard Home, Bart. Three paper sewed books with this, which have been given to the Printed Books Department."

Memorial to Sir James Everard Home, in St James' Church, Sydney.

More information can be gleaned from a hand-written note, possibly written by Capt Sir Everard Home, sewn to the bottom of the sampler: "Augt 31 1844 Sampler of a girl 12 years of age Native of the Apia Island of Upolu Navigators group – one of the school of Mrs Mills wife of the missionary there."

In 1768, the Samoan archipelago was visited by the French admiral and explorer, Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville (1729-1811), who called them the Navigator Islands. This name was apparently used by missionaries until about 1845 and in official European dispatches until about 1870. The missionary referred to in the note is William Mills, a Presbyterian, who arrived in Samoa in 1836. Who his wife was and what exactly she did on Upolu is not clear, although contemporary records do refer to the setting up of various, separate, schools for boys and girls and it would appear that she taught in one or more of these schools.

Capt. Sir James Everard Home, Bart. (1798-1853) was a well-known British naval officer, who acquired a range of items from the Pacific Islands in 1844 that he donated to the Museum in 1848, including the sampler.

See also:

British Museum online catalogue (retrieved 20 March 2017).


Last modified on Monday, 20 March 2017 11:27