American Sampler by Elizabeth McLoney, Mary Tidball School, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 1833

This exceptional sampler is the earliest known documented one made under the instruction of Mary Tidball, the most highly regarded teacher from western Pennsylvania. The sampler is signed, “Elizabeth McLoney daughter of John and Jane McLoney Wrought this sampler in the year 1838 Mary Tidball.” She repeated her name, divided onto two lines above this inscription. The verse reads, “From low Pursuits exalt my mind / From every vice of every kin [sic] / And never let my conduct tend / To wound the feeling of a friend.”

Samplers made under the instruction of Mary Tidball were included in Made in Pennsylvania: A Folk Art Tradition, an exhibition at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 2007. Early Tidball school samplers feature a large house with a little black dog, birds, trees, flowers. Interestingly, Elizabeth McLoney set her house up on a step-terrace lawn more like early Philadelphia samplers.

Elizabeth McLoney was born circa 1825 to Jane (Espy) and John McLoney in Washington Co., Pennsylvania, just south of Pittsburgh. Her parents married in Big Spring Church, Newville, Cumberland County, just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1810. While we have not uncovered a great deal about the McLoney family, we do know that John’s father, John McLoney (1737-1823) was elected Sheriff of Washington County in 1805 and ran a tavern there from 1808 to 1811, according to History of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Leverts & Co, 1882).

Much is known about Elizabeth’s maternal family line. Jane Espey (1790-1829) descended from George Espy (1695-1761) and Jean (Taylor) Espey. They emigrated from County Antrim, Ireland to Derry Township, Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania where George had land warrants for 200 acres in 1738. It appears Jane’s father, Thomas Espy (1739-1808) removed his family from Lancaster to Newville, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania after his service in the Revolutionary War and the family became prominent citizens of Newville. Jane, Elizabeth’s mother, died when Jane was about four years old and John remarried a year later.

History and Genealogy of the Espy Family in America by Florence Mercy Espey (1905) includes much information and a printed copy of this book accompanies the sampler along with the research file. 

The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a cherry frame with a maple bead.

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Dealer M. Finkel & Daughter
Date: 1833
Origin Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,
Artist/Maker Elizabeth McLoney
Measurements Sampler size: 20” x 17” * Framed size: 24” x 21”
Inventory View Dealer's Inventory
Price $12,000
Contact Amy Finkel, 215-627-7797 or

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