I thought you might enjoy the story connected with this baptismal apron, c. 1735. Currently on view in Fashioning the New England Family at the Massachusetts Historical Society (10/2018-4/2019; www.masshist.org), it was embroidered by Mary Woodbury (1717-1748) of Beverly, Massachusetts.
|All images are courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society; photographer, Laura Wulf.|
Using familiar 18thcentury iconography inspired by Asian motifs -- vases/urns of exotic flowers, flying phoenix/hoho birds--it is replete with silk and metallic threads, as well as small spangles. The primary stitches are flat and satin stitches. The colors are still bright against an extremely fragile silk ground. Born on March 3, 1717, the maker may have attended a female academy in Boston.
She married Dr. Benjamin Jones on March 3, 1736/7. She died the day before her 31stor 32nd birthday. The baptismal apron was most likely made for her own child, embroidered when Mary was around age 18-19. After her death on March 2, 1748, her belongings were carefully saved for her daughter, Lydia, by Dr. Jones' second and third wives. Lydia later married the Rev. Thomas Lancaster, who was minister of Scarborough, ME. from 1775 to 1831.
A baptismal apron such as this one, was worn by the infant. The term "apron" appears to be used in the 17th century and into the early 18th. Changes in baptismal practices - the move away from full immersion -- allowed for the better known Christening dress or gown to supplant the earlier ensemble, which often included the apron, a bib, mitts, and cap. The use of bearing cloths in the 17th and 18th century was also common. The example embroidered by Mary Woodbury has proportions closer to the apron than the square bearing cloth. Further, her family had settled in Massachusetts in the 17th century, likely continuing the practices from home. A full ensemble from the Victoria & Albert Museum may be seen here: react-text: 204 Victoria and Albert Museum /react-text :react-text: 207 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/.../baby-clothes-unknown/
1. Accession # 0168
Given by the grandchildren of Dorothy Lancaster Libby, through Charles Thornton Libby of Portland, ME, on August 5, 1931.
References MHS Proceedings64; 346
2. A second, and very unusual, example of her work, also survives at the Massachusetts Historical Society – a painting of Pocahontas. This may well be the first representation of Pocahontas by a woman. For more, see https://www.masshist.org/database/1747
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