Today marks the 138th wedding anniversary of Margaret and John Hoog, an event memorialized in this unusual sampler. While the majority of sampler makers were schoolgirls working to complete their needlework education, Margaret Hoog took needle in hand to commemorate her 1875 marriage. In the center of the sampler, instead of the usual alphabets, verse, or family history, she stitched a poignant message to her husband: “John the Hoog/O Love/Remember me/Margaret Hoog/Married 1875 June 3.”
Margaret and John Hoog were married in Manhattan. All that is known about them comes from the information recorded on their marriage certificate. Margaret was born in Ireland in about 1854, and John was born around 1850 in Belgium. It is possible that John’s last name may have been “de Hoog” prior to his immigration, and that Margaret’s reference to him as “John the Hoog” was a joke between the couple. Although only twenty-one at the time of her marriage to John, Margaret had been married once before and was undoubtedly a widow.
Hints to the mystery of the Hoogs’ story can be found in rich imagery of Margaret’s sampler. At the top is an eagle perched atop a United States shield with multiple flags in its talons, including those of America, her husband’s native Belgium, and possibly the Red Ensign, a British naval and merchant flag sometimes used on Irish merchant vessels. Around these central elements is a whimsical mix of swooping birds, flowering sprigs, baskets of flowers, and symbols that include stars, eyes, an anchor, and a heart pierced by an arrow. Depicted in the sampler’s lower section is a train leaving a town populated with houses and a horse and carriage and passing into a rural landscape. One of the train’s cars is marked “PRR,” for Pennsylvania Railroad.
The sampler’s message, with its plea “Remember me,” hauntingly alludes to an impending separation. While it is possible that John Hoog was divided from his bride by his profession—listed as seaman on their marriage certificate—the image of the train indicates that his journey was to be by rail rather than by sea. It is possible that he left New York in an effort to improve their circumstances, and that Margaret planned to join him once he was established in a new location. Whether that reunion ever took place is unknown. One possible outcome to their story is found in the 1888-89 New York directory, which contains a listing for “Hoog, Margaret, widow John.” There is no evidence, however, that the listing refers to the couple named in this sampler, so we can hope that their love story had a happier ending.
Jennifer N. Johnson holds a degree from the Parsons/Cooper-Hewitt Master's Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. While pursuing her studies, she completed a two-year fellowship researching the Cooper-Hewitt's American sampler collection. She is currently a Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts department at Yale University Art Gallery.