Perforated Paper Needlework
1870’s - 1900 The Mottoes
documented from the collection of Claudia Dutcher

Home Sweet Home - unusual elaborately stitched motto
American.     Text source - popular sentiment


The original Victorian motto texts were most often taken from one of these sources: quotes of scripture or sentiments taken from the Bible, a phrase or poem, a popular saying, fraternal and patriotic symbols, and popular hymns or secular song lyrics or titles. The words of these mottoes were intended to be seen daily. Their sayings and sentiments were intended to remind and encourage the viewer as part of their daily routine.


Watch and Pray
United Kingdom
Text source - Bible
Size - 11" x 18"

Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me
American.     Text source - Bible


The American Mottoes
The most common motto is the horizontal design where the paper measures 8.5" x 21". All of the pieces pictured here are worked on that size paper. Vertical motto designs on the same size paper were less common. The early perforated paper colors were limited to white and black. Designs printed on black paper were more expensive. By 1878 -1880 perforated paper sheets, printed or blank, were available painted in a variety of colors and also available with a silver metallic finish.

For the American mottoes it was popular to back the design with silver foil to give an elegant appearance, and to make the background look more like fabric by disguising the holes in the paper.


He Leadeth Me
American.     Above dated 1876
Text source - hymn title
"He Leadeth Me" published 1865

Rebus motto - No Cross No Crown
American.     Text source - religious slogan
The phrase is presented mostly as symbols.


Good Morning
American.     Text source - greeting

Honesty Industry and Sobriety
American.     Text source - Masonic saying


Rock Of Ages
American.     Text source - hymn title
"Rock Of Ages" published 1840
Both the words and background are elaborately stamped


Little deeds of kindness
Little words of love
Make this earth an Eden
Like the heaven above

Text source - children’s poem
published 1845

The Old Arm Chair
American.     Text source - song title
"The Old Arm Chair" published 1840


Ninety and Nine
American.     Text source - hymn title
Released to commemorate the revival
meetings in the 1870’s held by
DL Moody (left) evangelist
and Ira Sankey (right) musician
whose portraits are stamped on the paper.
Ira Sankey wrote the music for the hymn in 1874.

Scatter Smiles
American Text source - Sunday School song
"Scatter Smiles As you Go" early 1880’s
On rare black paper.
A Little History About Perforated Paper And The Motto Designs
Perforated paper has also been called perforated cardboard or punched paper. Before 1870, only smaller sheets of finer count paper (18 - 24 holes per inch) was widely available. This small size paper was used mostly for stitching bookmarks. Ladies magazines during the 1850’s - 1880’s often carried projects for pinkeeps, boxes, and other fancywork projects stitched on paper. American mottoes were designed specifically for a new larger count paper (14 -16 holes per inch) which first appeared in the United States during the 1870’s. Sheets in this size paper were available in these standard sizes; 8.5" x 21", 8.5" x 10.5", and 16.5" x 21", The first American motto designs were copyrighted around 1874. Motto designs were popular from 1875 - 1885.

Mottoes were intended to be easy to stitch. Most of the mottoes we see today were worked by children. The designs were printed on the paper. The stitcher worked over the printed design using wools, cottons, and silks. Typically the background paper was left unstitched. The earliest mottoes did not come with a color key, so the outcome was left to the resources and talents of the stitcher. Later designs were stamped similar to today’s cross stitch, with symbols etc. These designs were mass produced. During the height of their popularity a stitcher could purchase all the parts needed, including a thread set and a standard frame. The difference in design styles indicates that there were several different motto designers and paper manufacturers, although the details have yet to be completely documented. Many perforated paper motto designs were widely available for purchase in various stores and by mail order through magazines.

Mottoes from the United Kingdom
Examples from the 1880’s - 1890’s

The US and the UK had different sizes for their motto patterns. The designs from the UK were slightly smaller or bigger than the American ones.
Another difference is the number of holes punched per inch in the paper. The average hole count of UK paper is slightly higher with 15 - 16 holes per inch. The American motto paper has 14 - 15 holes punched per inch.
Mottoes from the UK have a distinctively different style. The designs available were limited, especially when compared to the vast choices of US motto sayings.
There He suffered
there He died for thee

United Kingdom.     Text source - Bible
Paper Size - 10" x 23"
Hitherto Hath The Lord Helped Us
United Kingdom.     Text source - Bible
Size - 7" x 12"
This small size motto was advertised to sell as a "Sunday School Motto"
Bear the Cross and wear the Crown
United Kingdom.     Size - 10" x 23"
Text source - religious revival popular phrase
Lead kindly Light
Lead Thou Me on

United Kingdom.     Size - 8" x 18"
Text source - hymn title
"Lead Kindly Light" - published 1833 (1865)
I Am The True Vine
United Kingdom - Scotland.     Text source - Bible
Size - 8" x 18"
Many mottoes from the UK were worked in silks rather than in cottons or wool. The American mottoes were designed to be displayed in the family home. Mottoes from the UK are mostly religious in sentiment. The UK pieces could have been designed primarily for church use, and thus the silks used in other church embroidery projects may have been more available to the stitcher.

1876 Centennial Perforated Paper Needlework Mottoes
documented from the collection of Claudia Dutcher Kistler

The 1876 Americana mottoes and their symbols

America was proud to celebrate their Centennial, the first 100 years of being a country. They were proud of their heritage and their leaders. Designers chose popular and familiar symbols for their Centennial motto designs. The President was the symbol of the nation. Two of the most popular Presidents were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. George Washington was the founding father of America. The death of Abraham Lincoln helped unite the country and bring the Civil War to an end. Other symbols of patriotism were the American flag and the eagle. Several versions of the same eagle appeared on many 1876 mottoes. The eagle symbolized the physical strength of America just as Washington and Lincoln represented the moral character and strength of the nation. The Liberty bell was also a familiar symbol stitched in 1876.

In God We Trust
Washington & Lincoln 8.5" x 21" [above]
Eagle & flag 8.5" x 10" [below]
In God We Trust
1876 International
Exhibition motto
10" x 14"
This motto has the names of the original
13 states stitched as part of the border
In Honor Shall Wave
American flag motto    8.5" x 21"
1776 - 1876 Hail Columbia
Featuring a flag, eagle, and the Liberty bell 8.5" x 21"
United We Stand 1776 - 1876
two mottoes - same theme

8.5" x 12" [above], 8.5" x 21" [below]
1776 God Bless Our National Land 1876
16" x 21.5"
This was an Exhibition motto because the Main
Exhibition building is printed in the center of the design.
The Father of his Country
George Washington
8.5" x 21"
The detail of George Washington’s unstitched
printed portrait is shown below.
1776 - 1876
A set of two mottoes featuring
Presidents Lincoln and Washington

8.5" x 11"
Each motto includes the words that
defined each man’s legacy.
1776 - 1876 In God We Trust with Presidents Washington and Lincoln

A unique group of American mottoes were the designs specifically created to celebrate the 1876 Centennial. These designs were released in 1875 and 1876. Many of these mottoes were specifically designed to promote the International Exhibition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also known as The 1876 World’s Fair. The mottoes containing printed features specific to the Fair were likely only available for purchase by attendees at the International Exhibition. The International Exhibition in Philadelphia ran from May 10 through November 10, 1876.

Designs printed on perforated paper were the perfect project for advertising. The design was printed on the paper and it was easy enough to use a larger sheet of paper and have a project printed with a tear away section. The advertisement featured the store or location where the project was purchased. Many sewing and dry goods stores gave away bookmarks with the printed shop information attached.

Stitchers valued the project. Before or after the design was stitched, the advertising section was usually removed. To find any printed paper design with an advertisement still attached is a special find for collectors. To find an 1876 Centennial piece with advertising is rare.

Here is an example of an 1876 Centennial design that was likely sold or given away at the International Exhibition. The original set would have had a design to stitch and a picture of the Main Exhibition building below the design. This example shows the complete stitched design but only a partial Exhibition advertisement. The full advertising print is shown below. This is how the missing section would have looked when the complete advertisement was still attached.

1776 - 1876
United We Stand

International Exhibition
advertising motto