Announcement

Due to a private event, the New-York Historical Society will be closed from Wednesday, October 27 – Friday, October 29. We'll reopen at 11 am ET on Saturday, October 30.

Memorial Plaque to Reverend Peter Williams, St. Philip's Protestant Church, New York City

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
1880
Medium: 
Black ink and wash and graphite on beige heavy watercolor paper
Dimensions: 
Overall: 9 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. ( 25.1 x 17.5 cm ) mat: 14 x 11 in. ( 35.6 x 27.9 cm )
Credit Line: 
Gift of Samuel Verplanck Hoffman
Object Number: 
1917.20
Marks: 
inscriptions: Not signed. Dated upper right: Feb. 1880. Title lower right: In St. Philip's Church, Mulberry St.
Inscriptions: 
Inscribed at upper right in balck ink: 'Feb. 1880"; at lower right: "IN ST PHILIPS CHURCH. MULBERRY ST."
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1880
eMuseum Object ID: 
16290
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Figural group

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
ca. 1855
Medium: 
Porcelain
Dimensions: 
Overall: 2 3/4 x 2 in. ( 7 x 5.1 cm )
Description: 
Porcelain black male figurine with open book in hand seated on cotton bales next to dark-haired white girl; circular base with inscription, label fragment attached to bottom
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. Robert C. Taylor
Object Number: 
1945.390
Marks: 
inscribed: on bottom of base in cursive: "Uncle Tom/&/ Evangeline"
Gallery Label: 
The huge success of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," published in 1852, induced English potters to manufacture a plethora of related items. This figure is one of a set six depicting characters from the novel, as well as the author herself.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1855
eMuseum Object ID: 
13000
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Figural group

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
ca. 1860-1900
Medium: 
Porcelain
Dimensions: 
Overall: 8 1/8 x 3 3/4 in. ( 20.6 x 9.5 cm )
Description: 
Seated porcelain black male figurine with book in hand holding white girl who stands on his knee; circular base with inscription.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. Robert C .Taylor
Object Number: 
1945.391
Marks: 
inscribed on base beneath figures: "Eva gaily laughing was / hanging a wreath of roses / round Tom's neck."
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1900
eMuseum Object ID: 
12999
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
1888
Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 
Overall: 17 x 14 in. ( 43.2 x 35.6 cm )
Credit Line: 
Gift of Daniel Parish, Jr.
Object Number: 
1914.11
Gallery Label: 
New York illustrator, portrait painter, and political cartoonist David Edward Cronin served in the Union Army as a staff artist for Harper's Weekly and came face to face with the grim realities of slave life. Cronin's painting of a group of desperate fugitives makes reference to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a controversial law that empowered federal commissioners to pursue fugitive slaves in all states and return them to their owners. The painting was likely inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Slave in the Dismal Swamp," first published in 1842: In dark fens of the Dismal Swamp The hunted Negro lay; He saw the fire of the midnight camp, And heard at times a horse's tramp And a bloodhound's distant bay. Where hardly a human foot could pass, Or a human heart would dare, On the quaking turf of the green morass He crouched in the rank and tangled grass, Like a wild beast in his lair. A poor old slave, infirm and lame; Great scars deformed his face; On his forehead he bore the brand of shame, And the rags, that hid his mangled frame…
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1888
eMuseum Object ID: 
10452
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

The Slave Auction

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
1859
Medium: 
Painted plaster
Dimensions: 
Overall: 13 3/8 x 8 x 8 3/4 in. ( 34 x 20.3 x 22.2 cm )
Description: 
Tan painted plaster sculptural group featuring slave parents standing with their two children in front of the desk of an auctioneer who is selling them. The mother is trying to comfort the baby in her arms while her other child hides behind her dress.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Object Number: 
1928.28
Marks: 
signed: center top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: front of base: "THE SLAVE AUCTION" inscribed: sign on auctioneers box: "GREAT SALE/OF/HORSES, CATTLE/NEGROES & OTHER FARMS STOCK-/THIS DAY AT/PUBLIC AUCTION"
Gallery Label: 
With this small plaster John Rogers burst onto both the art world and the political scene in New York in the months leading up to the Civil War. He boldly depicted a slave auction in progress, illustrating the tragedy of a family about to be torn apart. The father stands defiantly, with arms crossed, and his wife stands on the other side of the podium. Rogers noted that he portrayed her with Caucasian features to suggest that she was of mixed race, alluding to the sexual abuse of female slaves by their masters. She tenderly holds her baby, while her other child, a toddler, hides fearfully behind her skirt. The auctioneer presides over a rostrum with a sign that describes the sale with chilling dispassion: "Great Sale/of/Horses, Cattle/Negroes & Other/Farm Stock/This Day at/Public Auction." Rogers made clear the evil being perpetrated by the auctioneer: his hair forms two curls that resemble the horns of a devil, and what appears to be a tail peeks out from the back of his coat. Rogers himself described the work most vividly: "I have got a magnificent Negro on the stand. He fairly makes a chill run over me when I look at him. . . . The auctioneer I have rather idealized . . . two little quirks of hair give the impression of horns. The woman will be more clearly white and she and the children will come in gracefully. I am entirely satisfied to stake my reputation on it." Rogers modeled the sculpture while he was working as a draftsman for the city surveyor in Chicago. He had high hopes for the work, expecting it would be "the most powerful group I have ever made." The acclaim it earned in the Midwest inspired him to move to New York to establish himself as a professional artist. Rogers first offered it for sale at a pivotal moment, just two weeks after John Brown was executed for attempting to capture the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry in a plan to liberate slaves. Rogers tried soliciting subscriptions for his sculpture, but apparently with little success. He wrote home in dismay, "I find the times have quite headed me off, for the Slave Auction tells such a strong story that none of the stores will receive it to sell for fear of offending their Southern customers." Rogers had misjudged his audience; he was familiar with the fervent abolitionism of his New England home, and he had not counted on New York's strong commercial ties to the South, which divided the city's sympathies. Undaunted, he hired a black man to sell the group in the streets, a common means of marketing small sculpture usually practiced by Italian artisans. He attracted the attention of the abolitionist Lewis Tappan, who brought Rogers sales in antislavery circles. The abolitionist George B. Cheever wrote a flattering notice in the Independent. The plaster was acclaimed by other abolitionist publications like the National Anti-Slavery Standard and the New York Daily Tribune. Meanwhile, Rogers developed a companion piece called The Farmer's Home (no versions are extant). Intended as a stark contrast to The Slave Auction, the group was described as follows: "The hearty, happy father, after his day's work, or on his return from the field, is seated beside his wife, with a laughing baby astride his foot [which he holds] by both hands to be tossed up and down to a tune which the father is whistling. Another frolicking fat urchin is climbing on his shoulder." A dog and kitten complete the contented image. The representation of the Northern family highlighted the injustices visited on the slave family. Rogers tried to promote the two sculptures as a pendant pair, taking them to a partner at the New York jeweler Ball and Black. The gentleman "praised them both up to the skies" but admitted that he preferred The Farmer's Home for its "more pleasing subject." In later years The Slave Auction became an icon of Rogers' patriotism, but it was never a popular work of art. It remained in his sales catalogue until 1866, but the great rarity of surviving examples suggests that few were sold. The group has enjoyed much better fortunes in its afterlife as an image and an idea in public memory and popular culture. Ironically, the image of The Slave Auction was distributed far more widely than the work itself in the form of album photographs, stereo views, and cartes-de-visite. During Rogers' lifetime The Slave Auction was said to launch his career, and he was praised for his moral courage. By 1893 the group was legendary, as one account recalled that it "infuriated" Southerners. It was often called "Uncle Tom's Cabin in plaster," a reference to Harriet Beecher Stowe's literary indictment of slavery.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. Unattributed Article, Fall 1861, New York Historical Society, Miscellaneous Rogers Materials, Box 6. New York Tribune, New York, Sep. 8, 1860, p. 4. Boston Transcript, March 25, 1862, p. 2. The Evening Post, New York, Oct. 16, 1862, p. 2. Tuckerman, Henry T., Book of the Artists, American Artist Life, Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists: Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of Art in America, New York: P. Putnam & Son, 1867, pp. 595-7. Wells, Samuel R., ed., "John Rogers, the Sculptor," American Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Vol. 49, no. 9, September 1869, pp. 329-30. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.62-3. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 79, 81, 90, 99, 119, 148, 150, 178, 182, 197, 202,-3, 294, 299, 304. Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968, pp. 357-366. Wallace, David H., "The Art of John Rogers: So Real and So True," American Art Journal, November, 1972, pp. 59-70. Bourdon, David, "The story-telling statuettes of John Rogers, 19th-century people's artist, are being eagerly collected again," Smithsonian, Vol. 6, No. 2, May 1975, pp. 51-7. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1970, pp. 756-768. Boime, Albert, The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990, pp. 104-5, 188-99, 232, 238. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 58-9. Spencer, Bill, "John Rogers' Traveling Magician," Magic: The Independent Magazine for Magicians, March 2001, pp. 44-7. Clapper, Michael, "Reconstructing a Family: John Rogers's Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations," Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 39, No. 4, Winter 2004, pp. 259-78. Lauren Lessing. "Ties That Bind: Hiram Power's Greek Slave and Nineteenth-Century Marriage." American Art 24/1 (Spring 2010): 40-65. Holzer, Harold and The New-York Historical Society. "The Civil War in 50 Objects." New York: Viking, 2013.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1859
eMuseum Object ID: 
8941
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
n.d.
Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 
Overall: 30 x 25 in. ( 76.2 x 63.5 cm )
Credit Line: 
Purchase, The Louis Durr Fund
Object Number: 
1954.161
Marks: 
signature: at right: "E. Billings"
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
0
eMuseum Object ID: 
7922
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Am I Not a Woman & a Sister

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
1838
Medium: 
Copper
Dimensions: 
Overall: 1 1/8 in. ( 2.9 cm )
Description: 
Circular metal token, obverse with kneeling African-American woman in chains, inscribed "AM I NOT A WOMAN & A SISTER"; reverse with laurel wreath, inscribed "LIBERTY" and "1838" at center and "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" around perimeter.
Object Number: 
INV.13745
Gallery Label: 
In 1837 the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York commissioned a New Jersey firm to issue copper tokens featuring a kneeling slave with the legend "AM I NOT A WOMAN & A SISTER." Based on an earlier design of a chained and kneeling slave used for the seal of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, founded in England in 1787, this version substitutes a woman for the customary enslaved male. The appearance of the female icon in Britain and the United States symbolized not only a growing awareness of the special vicissitudes that women suffered under slavery as victims of sexual exploitation but also recognition of the prominent role that women were playing in the antislavery movement.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1838
eMuseum Object ID: 
6565
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Pepper box

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
ca. 1730
Medium: 
Silver
Dimensions: 
Overall: 3 x 2 1/4 x 3 3/8 in. ( 7.6 x 5.7 x 8.6 cm )
Description: 
Seamed silver pepper box; cylindrical body seamed to the right of the handle and around the flat, set-in base; applied, molded baseband; applied, plain s-scroll handle; domed, circular lid with bezel and geometric and trefoil pierce work; engraved, "S/ I * I" and "M * T" in block letters on the base; maker's mark stamped below the rim to the left of the handle.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1976.32ab
Marks: 
engraved: on the base: "S/ I * I" above "M * T" both in block letters stamped: below the rim, left of the handle: "SS" in roman letters in a rectangle
Gallery Label: 
Silversmith Simeon Soumain is known to have been a slave owner. In 1741, when the "Great Negro Plot" threatened in New York City, Soumain's slave Tom told authorities that the conspirators asked him to get swords from his master's shop. Two years later, Soumain advertised that a pepper box much like this had been stolen.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1730
eMuseum Object ID: 
4150
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

John Brown (1800-1859)

Collections: 
Classification: 
Date: 
ca. 1855-1860
Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 
Overall: 36 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. ( 92.1 x 76.8 cm )
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. Richard March Hoe
Object Number: 
1916.2
Gallery Label: 
This portrait was painted from a photograph, possibly around the time of Brown's trial and execution when interest in him ran high among abolitionists.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1860
eMuseum Object ID: 
1010
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Underground Railroad

 

Place made: North America, U.S.A.
Title: Slave shackles
Medium: Steel

The Underground Railroad Collection is a sampling of objects and paintings from the New-York Historical Society Museum that tells the story of resistance to slavery, the movement of fugitives, and the experiences and achievements of the enslaved and the free African-American community of the North. It includes artifacts from the abolitionist movement, portraits of notable antislavery people, narrative art such as figure groups by John Rogers, and commemorative items such as a silver pitcher commissioned to mark the end of slavery in New York in 1827.

Teaser: 

The Underground Railroad Collection is a sampling of objects and paintings from the New-York Historical Society Museum that tells the story of resistance to slavery, the movement of fugitives, and the experiences and achievements of the enslaved and the free African American community of the North. 

Teaser image: 
Collections: 

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