The Slave Auction


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Thomas Nast Slavery Collection

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The Slave Auction:

This is perhaps one of Thomas Nast's most poignant Civil War Illustrations.  The leaf, from an original 1864 Harper's newspaper, features a Slave Auction and other incredible images of slavery. This leaf is over 140 years old, and on the day it was printed, Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, the Civil War was raging on, and men and women were bought and sold like cattle across our land.

Slave Auction Picture

Original 1864 Picture of a Slave Auction by Thomas Nast.  (Click on Image for Enlargement)

This piece is rich with incredible historical slavery content. It captures the full human cost of the the Institution of Slavery, and was produced at a time that Slavery was still practiced in this nation. It was created by Thomas Nast, one of the most celebrated artists of the 1800's. Thomas Nast was famous for creating the popular image of Santa Claus, and the Republican Elephant.

The leaf contains no less than 19 striking inset illustrations of the tragedy of slavery. Featured prominently near the center of the print is an illustration of a Slave Auction. In the image, a beautiful young woman is pictured with her head slung low, standing on the auction block, being sold to the highest bidder. Behind her stands the auctioneer, gavel in hand, about to complete the sale of another enslaved human. On the auctioneers podium reads the words, "States Rights, Auction of Slaves and Union Soldiers". In the audience, the high bidder can be seen with an evil grin on his face, as the auction is completed. His intentions for the young woman are too terrible to contemplate. To the side of the auction block kneels the woman's husband and small child, about to be sold in separate auctions. The child clings to his father, as if he knows this is the last few moments the family will ever be together. This image, more than any other, captures the unimaginable inhumanity of the institution of Slavery.

The next inset presents another poignant image of the cruelty of Slavery. A slave is pictured tied to a tree being brutally beaten by two men. The man is collapsed in pain, but is unable to fall to the ground, because he is roped to a tree. The men whip him mercilessly. Two other black men are pictured on the ground, undoubtedly about to receive the same treatment.

Another image includes a riot in which white men are beating a group of blacks with clubs. One black man is on the ground. His attacker has him by the throat and is about to deliver the death blow with a club. Even a child is shown stomping the downed man. Another man is holding a black child in the air, and is beating him mercilessly with a club.

The next image shows the plight of two runaway slaves. They are pictured being pursued by a hunting party, led by a pack of dogs. The dogs have caught the two unfortunate slaves, have them on the ground and are mauling them as the men catch up. The two downed slaves pay the ultimate price for their unquenchable desire for freedom.

Another image shows a group of men who have captured a Union Buffalo Soldier, and are returning him to bondage. Other images include pictures of Jefferson Davis, George McClellan, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and other Generals of the day. Draped across the top of the illustration are images of tattered flags, with the names of Civil War battles etched on the stripes.

Finally, the leaf does present a ray of hope. President Abraham Lincoln is pictured standing on a stage, in front of a group of slaves, reading them the emancipation proclamation; boldly declaring their freedom, and the end of the cruelty of human bondage. The crowd of slaves are pictured celebrating, praying and giving thanks. Surrounding all the poignant images are the words from the 1864 Democratic National Convention platform. In the center of the Print is pictured George McClellan, Democratic Candidate for President of the United States.

George McClellan was running for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1864.  McClellan was running on a platform of "Compromise with the South".  His "Chicago Platform", in effect, supported the notion of ending the war by letting the Southern States secede.  This image by Thomas Nast served as a reminder to the Nation of the tragic human toll from slavery, and the importance of seeing the work of the war through to a successful close.


We hope you enjoy this complete Gallery of the Civil War works of Thomas Nast.  We have created this digital archive for the use of researchers and students of Thomas Nast.  Please remember that the digitally enhanced images are Copyright Son of the South Material.  For more information, contact .

A Note to our Readers

We created this Thomas Nast Gallery to digitally preserve Nast's Civil War work for posterity.  We are now making the original, 140 year old leafs available for a price of $250 each.  The proceeds from the sale of the material will enable us to continue to expand the material featured on our site.  Please contact if you are interested in acquiring one of these original leafs.




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