Original Slave Illustration


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Rare and Original 1861 Illustration Featuring:

Slave Family Traditions

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Slave Family

Slave Family Illustration

You are viewing an original 1861 illustration depicting Slave Life in the 1860's.  Please note that this is NOT a reproduction or facsimile. This leaf is over 140 years old.  On the day it was printed Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, the Nation was engaged in its bloodiest conflict, and Men, Women and Children were held in bondage across this land under the oppressive institution of slavery. As you hold this leaf in your hand, and gaze at the images of slaves, think what life must have been like on the day this leaf was printed. Consider the suffering and hardship of the people living at that time. This illustration will take you back to one of the most difficult times our Nation has faced. This is a rare and dramatic illustration.  Leaf's with this historic content are becoming increasingly difficult to find, as they are being quickly scooped up by serious collectors and investors. I don't know when I will be able to offer another piece with such important historic content.

Slave Family

Description: This leaf is an 1861 illustration by Thomas Nast, one of the most noted artists of the 1800's. Nast is credited with creating the popular image of Santa Clause, created the original democratic donkey image, and the original republican elephant image.  While famous for those images that have become part of our popular culture, none of his work could be as touching, captivating or collectible as this particular piece.  Remember, the piece was created at a time when slavery was still practiced, and considered acceptable by many in this country.  In this particular illustration, Nast introduces what would have been a revolutionary concept . . . that people are all basically the same, as reflected by their family customs and traditions.  He drives home this point by showing traditional family activities of White's on the top, and corresponding activities of Black or Slave families on the bottom.  For example, the upper left inset image shows a white family celebrating an "apple cutting", which was a tradition of whites at the time to come together to store the apple harvest for the winter.  Under it is an image of a slave family celebrating a "Corn Husking".  An old black man is shown playing the fiddle as his friends and family shuck corn. "Corn Huskings" were times when slaves from surrounding plantations would come together to celebrate bringing in the corn crop.  It was a time of celebration, festivity, renewing old acquaintances, and making new ones. (please email me if you would like resources or references on this Slave tradition. I would be happy to provide at no cost to anyone interested)

Similarly, the illustration shows a comparison between the White tradition of having "dances", and the Slave tradition of having "Breakdowns".

In this historically important leaf, Nast was making what would have been an explosive point for his time . . . that we are all basically the same.  It was a revolutionary and controversial point at the time, but a belief whose time had come, and one that helped serve as the beginning of the end of slavery in this country.

Provenance: This leaf was carefully removed from an original 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly, the most popular illustrated newspaper of the day.  During the Civil War, Libraries would subscribe to Harper's Weekly.  At the end of the year, they would "bind" the individual newspapers into large volumes.  Fine art and other illustrations like this one survived until today in the archives of Libraries or Historical Foundations. In the 1970's and 1980's, Libraries microfilmed many of the volumes, and sold the original volumes, filled with priceless treasures like this one, to the public.  I was fortunate enough to buy a large collection of these volumes when they became available.  Now, I make individual illustrations like the one above available to individual collectors, Unlike newsprint of this century, these older, original pages do not yellow and fall apart.  The reason is that modern newspapers use an acid based process.   Remnant acid in the paper causes the paper to quickly yellow and deteriorate.   A different process was used in the mid-1800's which yielded an exceptional quality paper that will last for centuries. Special acid free mats should be used when you frame this piece to ensure that it will last another 150 years.  Acid free mats are available at most better frame shops.  If you have any questions related to handling or framing this piece feel free to email me. The leaf is approximately 16x21 inches.

Condition: The leaf is in very good condition. It has the rich sepia tone that you expect in original material from this period. It has some light spots of foxing, consistent with its 140 years of age.  There are several areas of finger smudging in the margins from people handling the leaf over the last 140 years. The piece is highly displayable, and I guarantee your satisfaction! 

This piece will make a stunning display when framed and placed in your office or study.  It will become the center of attention, and I assure all who enter will notice it. 

Don't miss your chance to acquire this truly unique piece of Black American History.  It would make the ultimate gift for any student of Black History.  I assure you that this leaf will become the prized procession of its new owner.  I ask you, what other purchase that you make this year will be cherished by your children and their children a hundred years from now?






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