Circa 1880, cotton, 41 inches wide exclusive of ties

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) studied at the Royal College of Art in London. Her first book, Under the Window, a collection of verses about children, was published in 1879 and became a bestseller. Edmund Evans reproduced her illustrations with chromoxylography, a color printing process using hand-engraved woodblocks. Liberty of London adapted Greenaway’s drawings to produce actual children’s clothes, which became all the rage among artistic British mothers who called themselves “The Souls” and adhered to the tenets of the Aesthetic movement:

These two aprons came from Jane Byrd McCall Radcliffe-Whitehead’s estate. Jane was married to Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead; they were the founders of the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony in New York (see Cornell University, 2004, Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony.) Jane (1861-1955) was close in age to her younger sister Gertie and they often wore matching outfits including when they were presented at Queen Victoria’s court. The two sisters were the daughters of Philadelphia mayor Peter McCall and Jane Byrd Mercer of the Mercer tile family--Henry Chapman Mercer was the Jane McCall Whitehead’s cousin. So there’s a whole lot of American Arts and Crafts history tied into the apron strings!

One apron was exhibited in  Reflections: Fashion, Dolls and the Art of Growing Up.  November 2002–March 2003, American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA.  They were assembled with a sewing machine, but I don’t know if they came from a department store like Liberty’s, from which, as an adult, Jane ordered dresses.