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Stephen & Carol Huber: 17th - 19th Century Needlework

Free Gardeners Society from Huber

Ceremonial Long Apron
Order of Free Gardeners Society

Mid-19th century

This very large and graphic embroidered apron with various symbols and emblems, has dramatic visual appeal while providing a cultural goldmine of interpretive discussions.

For example, embroidered on the apron are the letters P, G, H, E, initials of Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel (Tigris) and Euphrates, the four rivers of the Garden of Eden, and A, N, S, O, initials of Adam, Noah, Solomon, all known to be master gardeners and "O" for olive. Other initials include A, G, S, Greek letters representing the words Excellence, Knowledge, and Wisdom. Interspersed on the ground fabric are the initials W, B, S, which stand for Wisdom, Beauty, and Strength.

The Free Gardeners Society originated in Scotland in the 17th century to promote and regulate the gardening profession and also act as a benefit society. It then spread to England and eventually to the United States. Their organization resembled Free Masons with Lodges, Grand Lodges and lodge officers including the Master Gardener, two Wardens, Chaplain, etc.During the 19th century Free Gardeners symbolism was increasingly influenced by Free Masonry such as including a square, a compass, and eventually a grafting knife. The absence of a grafting knife indicates this apron to be early 19th century rather then later.

While Free Gardeners traditions were similar to Free Masons their ribbons, sashes, and aprons have different shapes and decorative elements including depictions of working tools as in the gardening tools under Adam & Eve and the shovel in Adam's right hand. Free Gardeners aprons are full length, and are usually made of dark blue serge (wool) and are often colorfully and fantastically embroidered.

It is interesting to investigate the Ancient Order of Free Gardeners on the Internet.

Wool on wool; 30 ¼ x 23 ¼ sight.


(860) 388-6809


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