Representing Decoration Day in a 19th Century Political Magazine

“The 30th day of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. …”

GENERAL ORDERS No. 11
May 5, 1868

What is now known as Memorial Day—a day to remember those U.S. military personnel who died while serving—was originally known as Decoration Day. Below are a selection of images from Harper’s Weekly published during the first decade after General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic first called for this official day of national mourning in 1868.

“Honoring Our Dead Heroes” from the June 6, 1868, issue of Harper’s Weekly (365).
Continued text from “Honoring Our Dead Heroes” (366).
“‘In Memorium’—Decoration Day, 1872” from the June 8, 1872, issue of Harper’s Weekly (441).
Caption text for “In Memorium” (442).
“Decoration Day” article from the June 14, 1873, issue of Harper’s Weekly (498).
Illustration from later in the same June 14, 1873, issue (501).

A happy Memorial Day to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

2016 post: Memorial Day: Stories of War by a Civil War Veteran
2017 post: “Memorial Day” poem by Joyce Kilmer
2018 post: “Decoration Day” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
2019 post: Myths and Memorials
2020 post: Narratives about the Corby Statues—at Gettysburg and on Campus
2021 post: An Early Civil War Caricature of Jefferson Davis


Rare Books and Special Collections is closed today (May 30th) for Memorial Day and will be closed on July 4th for Independence Day. Otherwise, RBSC will be open regular hours this summer — 9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.

During June and July the blog will shift to our summer posting schedule, with posts every other Monday rather than every week. We will resume weekly publication on August 1st.

Upcoming Events: May and through the summer

No events are scheduled to be hosted this summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Please note that beginning in July, our “Upcoming Events” posts will shift from running on the first Monday of the month to running on the last Monday of the preceding month (i.e., the post on July 25 will feature upcoming events in August, etc.).

The spring exhibit The Word throughout Time: The Bible in the Middle Ages and Beyond is now open and will run through June. Tours are available for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences, by request.

The current spotlight exhibit are 100 Years of James Joyce’s Ulysses (January – May 2022) and Fifties Flair and Seventies Feminism Presented by Two Magazines (May 2022).

All exhibits are free and open to the public during business hours.


Rare Books and Special Collections is open
regular hours during the summer —
9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.

RBSC will be closed Monday, May 30th, for Memorial Day and Monday, July 4th, for Independence Day.

Two Years On, and Over 150 Years Ago

by Anne Elise Crafton, Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute

Reflecting on the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, one can find historical parallels. A recent addition to the Hesburgh Library, a collection of Harper’s Weekly magazines from the 1850s to the 1890s, reveals that late-nineteenth century Americans were also worried about how to stay safe during epidemics. The magazines document events during turbulent periods of American history: the Civil War, Reconstruction, and multiple epidemics. Numerous articles, cartoons, and advertisements reflect widespread concerns for how best to combat national health crises.

In 1858, a group of rioters attacked a hospital, known as “The Quarantine,” that held patients with smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera; at least two men died. The rioters feared that the quarantined patients represented a threat to the local community rather than necessary protection, as it was believed that disease spread through a miasma in the air.

Since bacteria had yet to be discovered and cures were not readily available, others looked to make a profit from those desperate to stay well. One 1864 advertisement for “Dr. T.B. Talbot’s Medicated Pineapple Cider” suggests that consumers snuff pineapple cider to cure the influenza. The fine print notes that customers might have to wait six months before being cured.

In 1879, America attempted to combat the rising cases of yellow fever by creating a National Board of Health, which ceased operations by 1884 due to various funding and operational issues. 

Despite these ups and downs it is also clear that in the midst of national anxieties, people found joy in life. For instance, each edition of Harper’s Weekly included a section of new chapters of ongoing novels. One of the most popular authors to publish a chapter-a-week was Charles Dickens, whose novels featured prominently in Harper’s Weekly.

The newspaper also frequently printed stories from far-off places; the images provided a taste of the world beyond America for those unable to travel.

Advertisements for the latest Parisian fashions, recipes for the at-home chef, and poetry accompanied news of politics and warfare. During the height of the Civil War, one cartoonist took a break from political imagery to joke about the ever-widening skirts of women’s’ fashion.

The Harper’s Weekly collection reminds us that while many things have changed and some haven’t, we have always found ways to endure.


COVID Policy Update: For fully vaccinated Notre Dame faculty, staff, students and visitors, masking is now optional indoors on campus. Those students, faculty, staff and visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside campus buildings, including in Rare Books & Special Collections spaces. Anyone who would prefer to wear a mask in any setting is welcome to do so.

Black History Month 2022

by Greg Bond, Sports Archivist

For several years, I’ve been on the hunt for Claude Monroe Paris, a largely unheralded African American basketball pioneer from the early twentieth century whose name does not appear in the standard books about the history of African Americans in basketball. A native of Waupaca, Wisconsin, Paris excelled on the court and was one of the few African Americans to compete on high-level integrated basketball teams in the early 1900s. Usually playing at forward or center, he received wide praise for his abilities, and his teams competed in national amateur basketball tournaments in Chicago.

Basketball was in its infancy and—compared to sports like baseball or college football—often received less coverage. So, it has sometimes been difficult to uncover information about early basketball players like Claude Paris. Fortunately, in my new position as the Sports Archivist at Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library, I can use the incomparable resources of the Joyce Sports Research Collection to better document Claude Paris’s trailblazing athletic career.

After starring at Waupaca High School, Paris joined the region’s top amateur team sponsored by the nearby Stevens Point Athletic Club in 1901. He quickly gained local fame, with one reporter describing him as “a well known colored basket ball player.” The state press routinely praised him as a “crack forward,” and one sportswriter said simply that Paris “is said by players of experience to have been the best forward in the state.”

The Stevens Point Athletics were one of the top teams in Wisconsin, and in 1901, they were invited to Chicago to compete in an eight-team basketball tournament billed as the “National Amateur Championship.” Other teams in the field included Kenton, Ohio; Chicago’s West Side YMCA; the University of Nebraska, and the Silent Five of Brooklyn, New York, a team composed of deaf players.

Before the tournament, the Chicago Chronicle, wrote that Stevens Point “has this year made a very enviable reputation and has an undisputed right to be classed among the best teams in the country.” The Chronicle singled out Paris for “the star playing of the team” and noted that “Paris, who is an unusually small man for the position he fills, is an excellent player and is looked upon as one of the strongest of the team.” 

Paris played well in Chicago, but the tournament ended without a clear champion as Stevens Point and Kenton, Ohio, both finished with records of 3-1.

Over the years, I have tracked Claude Paris and the Stevens Point Athletics “championship” team through newspaper stories, but the Joyce Sports Research Collection—namely, its nearly complete run of Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide—has now let me put a picture to these words. Spalding Guides routinely featured hundreds of team photographs from every level of competition, and these images are a fantastic resource for researchers to study and to document the development of sports.

The Joyce Collection’s 1901–02 Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide includes on page 60 a team photograph of the “Stevens Point A.C. Basket Ball Team.” Claude Paris (identified as number 7) sits on the left side of the first row, providing a visual record—seen around the country in the popular Spalding Guide—of this early integrated basketball team and graphically documenting Claude Paris’s participation at the highest levels of amateur basketball.

After Stevens Point, Paris attended and continued his basketball career at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, for two years. But his career after Lawrence is not well documented. Further investigation in the Joyce Collection, though, has led to more information. I discovered that the 1905­–06 Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide pictured Claude Paris (identified as number 6) with the 1905 Menasha (Wisconsin) Young Men’s Social Club Basketball team—providing additional evidence of Paris’s trailblazing career as an African American basketball player on predominantly white teams. 

Unfortunately, little information has survived about the specifics of Claude Paris’s experiences against white competitors, but visual evidence of his participation on integrated teams is an important addition to our knowledge about the history of African American athletes in this era.

Some contemporary observers also noticed the significance of Claude Paris. In April 1903, the Milwaukee Sentinel published a lengthy article about Paris, then a student at Lawrence. The Sentinel described him as “studious and industrious” and “of quiet manner and engaging personality.” 

The article also noted that “Paris finds time to devote considerable attention to athletics… [and] he has an excellent record. Before he came to Lawrence he played on the Stevens Point basket ball team which tied the team of Kenton, O., for the national championship in 1901.”

The Milwaukee Sentinel ultimately used Claude Paris to make an overtly political point. In an era that witnessed increasing legal segregation and racial violence and growing restrictions on African American rights, the Sentinel held up Paris’s example as a direct refutation of the racist philosophy of segregationists exemplified by notorious South Carolina Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman:

“Claude M. Paris of Waupaca… in every detail of his personality and every incident of his career gives the lie to Senator Ben Tillman’s dictum that the negro is and must always remain… inferior.”

I am grateful that the Joyce Sports Research Collection has helped me to further document and honor the life of Claude Monroe Paris, an unsung African American athletic pioneer.

Fáinne an Lae — Advertising to the Irish

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

New to our collection is a very nice bound volume Fáinne an Lae, A Weekly Bilingual Newspaper for the Advancement of the Irish Language. Páipéar Seachtmhaine Dá Theanga chum Gaedhilge do Chur ar Aghaidh. Vol. 1, no. 1, January 8th, 1898 to the last volume, Vol. 5, no. 134, July 28th, 1900.

This pioneering work was taken on by printer Bernard Doyle (Brian Ó Dubhghaill), who owned and edited the newspaper, in cooperation with Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League).

Differences between the owner and Conradh na Gaeilge developed, and eventually Conradh na Gaeilge founded their own paper, An Claidheamh Soluis, which replaced Fáinne an Lae in 1900. Further information on the intertwined history of the two newspapers may be read in Fáinne an Lae agus an Athbheochan, 1898-1900, by Caoilfhionn Nic Pháidín (1998)

When this handsome volume arrived, we began to explore it, examining the content of the first issue (editorial on the need to revive the Irish language, summaries of Irish and overseas news items, and news of the Irish language and of the Gaelic League), but we soon became engrossed in the advertisements on the back page of each issue.

While most advertisements are in English, some are written in Irish, including this one from Madigan Brothers, tea merchants, of Henry Street, Dublin.

Tá tae “thar barr” ag Muintir Mhadagháin. (The Madigan family’s tea is superlative). The price of a pound of their tea ranges from 1/4 (one shilling and four pence) to two shillings.

A barber advertises his services — one wonders if the conversation in 180 Townsend Street was often in Irish, and how successful this ad was in bringing an Irish-speaking clientele. Surely he was not the only Irish-speaking barber in all of Ireland, but the claim might refer to Dublin city center.

As we might expect, many advertisements were directed not only to Irish language enthusiasts, but to those who supported Irish industry. In the spirit of Douglas Hyde’s groundbreaking essay, ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ (1892), calling for Irish people to embrace Irish products as well as Irish culture and language, the advertisements promote Irish handkerchiefs, clothes, jewellery, whiskey and books.

Bernard Doyle’s biography in ainm.ie tells us that he was involved in the planning of centenary commemoration events for the 1798 Rising, and so it isn’t surprising to find an ad for ’98 commemorative items in his paper. Irish poplin, the material noted here for ties, sashes, and the Wolfe Tone badges, is a silk fabric that was woven in Dublin since the since the seventeenth century.

This Belfast jeweller advertises brooches complete with Celtic cross, harp, and what looks like a round tower.

Christmas cards with Irish language greetings, ‘the latest novelty’ are advertised below Tierney’s ad for rented china, glass and delph. Delph, or delf, a word rarely heard in America, is a common term in Ireland for earthenware dishes, cups, plates etc.

Kelly Brothers, above right, advertise their large stock of wine, but only as a footnote to their altar wine.

Having read and enjoyed the advertisements, we will now send the volume for cataloging, and look forward to making it available for students and visitors.

Stories of Power and Diversity in Notre Dame’s Collections

This week we highlight the Hesburgh Libraries’ first student-curated digital exhibition, Still History? Exploring Mediated Narratives.

Seven Notre Dame students who enrolled in the Winter Session course, “Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives, and Collecting” worked together to create this unique show. The students ranged from first year to graduate students and their fields of study included history, English, anthropology, classics, art history, and liberal studies. Their show brings together seven items from three Notre Dame campus repositories – Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives, and the Snite Museum of Art – and reflects on how they intersect with themes of diversity. 

We invite you to explore Still History?’s seven showcases. Each explores a single object or set of objects. Each also includes a personal reflection statement about the student’s work on this project. The show presents a variety of twentieth-century visual and textual sources, including photographs by Laura Gilpin, Aaron Siskind, Ernest Knee, and Mary Ellen Mark, a poster supporting women in prison, a pamphlet on disabilities, and articles from the Observer. Questions about representation link these disparate sources and thread the showcases together in interesting ways. The students ask how art and artifacts do and do not represent the experiences of Black, Native American, LGBTQ, mentally- and physically-disabled, incarcerated, poor, and Hispanic-American individuals and groups. An introduction and afterword by RBSC’s own curators, Erika Hosselkus and Rachel Bohlmann, who taught this new course, bookend the show.

This exhibition invites viewers to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories and to ongoing campus and nationwide conversations about diversity and representation. We are pleased to share it here!

Writing to Rehabilitate in the House of Detention for Women in New York City

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In celebration of Women’s History Month, RBSC is highlighting a portion of women in America who receive very little attention and who continue to be among the most marginalized: women in prison. 

This magazine, Greenwich Gazette, was edited and published in 1939 by inmates of the House of Detention for Women in New York City. This is the only available copy and no other issues have been identified. The publication was a “vehicle for self expression” and for creative work. The prison’s address was 10 Greenwich Avenue, which gave the serial its name.

The pages of the Gazette include poetry, commentary on current events and politics (the need for an anti-child labor amendment, opposition to a law that would make it illegal for a husband and wife to both hold teaching positions), personal reminiscences, short fiction, book reviews, as well as the outcome of a debate on whether movies contributed to juvenile delinquency (the “affirmatives” won by audience vote). One lighthearted entry, “A Musical Correspondence,” was composed by using contemporary song titles as phrases. 

In “Echoes from the Roof,” Ann Greulich reported the results of a poll taken of the “girls who attend school on the roof.” The prison offered classes every weekday afternoon in English, health and hygiene, current events, and other subjects. Mary Fiorelli wrote of her experience with the school, “The way I feel about it here is that the teacher is like a nurse or doctor who is feeding a weak person with a good tonic.” Jennie Bennett noted, “One is likely to get in a rut and stay there, if confined any length of time, and I can say that our classes here have done much for me in preventing that from happening.” Another woman, Edna Neal, wrote that “Not only did [school] teach me a lot, but it helped me ‘keep my balance all the time.’” Anna Carola observed, “With more education, I think I could accomplish better things in life have more understanding of my fellow man, and be a better citizen.”

This copy was owned by Ruth Lentz, who was the magazine’s Staff Adviser. At the prison, she was responsible for the school, arts and crafts, and the prison library. The prison was designed, according to its Superintendent, Ruth E. Collins, as a kind of school for citizenship, which would prepare its inmates for jobs and better opportunities post-incarceration. Collins was the prison’s first superintendent and was chosen for the position after a career in children’s aid, juvenile protection, and other Progressive Era initiatives, including a period of time living and working with Jane Addams at Hull-House in Chicago, a center of Progressive ideas and programs.

When the prison opened in 1931 it was heralded as the most modern, humane, and even comfortable facility. The building was an art deco high rise, situated in Greenwich Village. Prisoners were sorted and first-time inmates were kept apart from repeat offenders. The women had their own rooms (they were not called cells) and there were no bars on the windows. The prison was designed to hold 450. By the mid-1960s, however, the prison had become a watchword of corruption, violence, and inhumane conditions. The prison held as many as 750 women, food was nearly inedible, and the building was infested with rats. A 1967 exposé of the prison’s conditions set the stage for its closure. Testimony by Andrea Dworkin about the brutal treatment she received there as a young student arrested for protesting the Vietnam War also pushed the city to close the facility, which it did in 1971.

Over decades, the House of Detention for Women developed into one of the worst prisons in the United States. Nevertheless, at the institution’s inception, the Greenwich Gazette represented some of the best ideals of a progressive penal system based not on a punitive model, but one of reform, rehabilitation, and community support.

RBSC holds a few additional materials by and about women in prison and Hesburgh Libraries has a new database, American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside, for further exploration of this genre.

Related Previous Blog Posts

‘The Citizen’ and Henry Hudson’s Collection of Irish Music

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Ninety years ago, Francis O’Neill made the University of Notre Dame the valuable gift of his remarkable personal library, a library known primarily for its collections on Irish music and Irish history.

Included are some bound volumes of a periodical called The Citizen or Dublin Monthly Magazine of 1841, and its successor Dublin Monthly Magazine, 1842.

Though the magazine covers literature, history and politics, it is for the music that O’Neill collected these volumes, as borne out by both his pencil annotations on the pages and his listing of these volumes under ‘Musical History and Literature’ in his inventory of the collection (O’Neill Library Inventory, MSN/MN 0502: Series 2).

The periodical ran, with various name-changes, from 1839 until 1843. When William Elliot Hudson (1796-1853) became editor, his brother, Henry Hudson (1798-1889) contributed a regular section on Irish music. This is the same Henry Hudson, a dentist with a practice on St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, whose manuscripts found their way into various collections including that of Francis O’Neill. We know how O’Neill came by the manuscript from a letter he wrote to Charlotte Milligan Fox in 1911:

When I obtained the MSS. Volume referred to on pages 68 and 249 of “Irish Folk Music” through Nassau Massey, Cork, I was informed that some four or five similar volumes had been purchased for the Boston Library. These latter, it appears, reached Mr. Massey, and were disposed of before the volume I now possess came into his hands.

O’Neill’s letter is published in an article by Fox, “Concerning the William Elliott Hudson Collection of Irish Folk Songs” in which she describes her discovery of the five notebooks in the Boston Public Library, and also argues erroneously that the author is William E. Hudson.

Hudson transcribed the songs and melodies at a time of enthusiasm for collecting and preserving traditional music of Ireland. Edward Bunting’s published collections, beginning with the melodies he transcribed from the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, inspired a number of others to engage in similar work.

While the manuscript notebooks are filled with the songs or melodies, his published sections on Irish music include also lengthy introductions to the songs. The February 1941 issue of The Citizen also includes an essay on the printing of Irish music.

In our present number we again present our readers with three Irish airs. In the mechanical departments of the work, we are but experimenting. The neglect of every matter of art in Ireland has hitherto been so great, that we have had to cope with difficulties, which few, possibly , of our readers, are prepared to appreciate. The metals to be graven, — the tools to be employed,– the inks to be used, are all in a state of imperfection. The result is, and it has been the case for years, that those requiring any musical work of nicety to be executed, go, or send to London for it; and thus, even in Bunting’s last beautiful work, in the bringing out of which so much notationality has been tastefully displayed, the reader will find the last page deformed with the announcement, “London, engraved by H. T. Skarratt, 5, Eyre-street, Hatton-garden.” One hundred and thirteen plates for an irish work, especially national, engraved in London!

The Citizen or Dublin Monthly Magazine XVI, no. III, February 1841. P. 134

Hudson assigned Irish language titles along with English titles to most of his tunes. Examples are “Fuaim na dTonn” / “The Sound of the Waves” and “An Deoruide Tuirseach” / “The Weary Wanderer”.

Hudson’s series of notebooks of music manuscripts is divided across three libraries: one in the National Library of Ireland, five in the Boston Public Library, and one here in Notre Dame’s Special Collections.

A page from the Hudson manuscript MSE 1434-2B 021

Our notebook has been digitized may be viewed online, and digital copies of those at the Boston Public Library are available in the Internet Archive:

Book for Irish Airs, nos. 1-111
Numbers 1-424
Numbers 428-737
Manuscript beginning with 732
Manuscript with a note on Hudson’s own compositions

The seventh manuscript is in the National Library of Ireland, with the following catalog description: Traditional Irish airs, collected by Henry Hudson, in the 19th cent. From the O Casside Mss.

Bibliography

Colette Moloney and Deirdre McDonald, ‘The Irish Music Manuscripts of Henry Hudson’, in Kerry Houston, Maria McHale & Michael Murphy, eds., Documents of Irish Music History in the Long Nineteenth Century. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2019.

Jimmy O’Brien Moran. ‘Henry Philerin Hudson, MRIA: an Irish Macpherson?’ Béaloideas, 81 (2013), pp. 150-169.

Phillips Barry, ‘Irish Music in the Hudson Manuscripts’, Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, 13 (1913), pp. 9-10.

“Washington was thronged with visitors from every part of the world…”

by Sara Weber, Special Collections Digital Project Specialist

Living as we do in a world of live broadcasts and instant social media, it can be hard to remember just how long it could take information to reach parts of our nation in earlier days.

In last week’s post, we shared two letters from Special Collections written by James Monroe Meek to his wife Elizabeth in March 1869, focusing on his description of the events surrounding the first inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States. At the start of the first of these two letters, Meek indicates to his wife that he had received on the previous evening (March 3rd) a letter that she had written February 28th. This transit time is as good as—or perhaps better than—what we would expect today.

For those without a family member or friend to write home, there were of course various serial publications that conveyed the news of the world to the world. By the second half of the nineteenth century, newspapers typically covered such a significant event as an inauguration fairly quickly, thanks to recently expanded telegraph lines and railways—at least for those living in a city served by those technological advances.

Those who relied on magazines for their news might be in for a rather longer wait. For example, a write-up of Grant’s inauguration appeared in the March 20th issue of Harper’s Weekly. In our own collection, we find an even later description. The inauguration of March 1869 did not appear in the “Current Events” section of Putnam’s Magazine: Original Papers on Literature, Science, Art, and National Interests until their May 1869 issue!

Behind Juneteenth: Emancipation

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Rare Books

This Wednesday, June 19, 2019, marks the 153 celebration of Juneteenth, the name African Americans in Texas gave to emancipation day.

On June 19, 1865, Major-General Gordon Granger, Union commander of the Department of Texas, arrived in Galveston, where he issued General Orders, No. 3:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are tree.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

This order impacted approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas. Upon receipt of this news, newly freed slaves engaged in a variety of personal celebrations. In the following year, large public celebrations were held. These continue to today.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas and more generally those enslaved in the Confederate states. This day brings people together and is marked with picnics, family gatherings, parades, barbecues, and other events featuring guest speakers. But it is not merely a day of rejoicing and fun. Juneteenth also emphasizes education and reflection about achievements. It is a time of formal thanksgiving, often opened by the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), the American writer and civil rights activist.

Despite the welcome news that General Gordon’s order brought to slaves in Galveston in 1865, the freedom proclaimed for these slaves arrived two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln had already granted them freedom He promulgated the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…

Though the Proclamation applied only to slaves in states that had seceded from the Union and that had not yet come under the control of the North, it marked a significant shift in the long process to end slavery in the US. This process culminated, at least on paper, two years later on December 6, 1865 when Congress ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Three weeks after Lincoln’s promulgation, Harper’s Magazine published an unsigned article titled “Emancipation” on page 55 of the January 24, 1863 issue. In this article, the magazine announces that on the following two pages, it has published “another double-page drawing by Thomas Nast,” and offers its description of Nast’s work.

Lincoln’s action had attracted the attention of German immigrant and American editorial cartoonist, Thomas Nast (1840-1902). Nast allegorically rendered a freed African American family in the January 24, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, which the magazine captioned “Emancipation of the Negroes, January, 1863—the Past and The Future. Drawn by Mr. Thomas Nast.” Nast attracts his viewer’s attention in the central roundel. Several generations of this family—all happy and stylishly dressed—a family not ripped apart by slavery.

In the surrounding images, Nast presents the past and the future. Scenes depicting the history of slavery—the public sale of slaves, families being torn apart, the brutality of slaves held in bondage—fill out the left half, while the rest of the image points toward the future and improved living conditions. The transition begins in the smaller roundel. Father Time holds Baby New Year, who unlocks the shackle of the slave kneeling before him. Columbia stands atop the central roundel. Below her to the left Lincoln’s portrait hangs on the wall next to the highly symbolic banjo (a symbol, rooted in African religious traditions, of slave life), and below Columbia to the right stands Justice before a scene of a Union victory. An American flag waves proudly above a public school with two children waving to their mom who wears a southern-style head scarf and holds an infant as they happily run off to school. Another sign of improved life in America are African Americans standing before a cashier’s window engaged in a business transaction.

Two years later, the large, Philadelphia print shop of King and Baird issued a commemorative print based on Nast’s image. The main difference between the 1863 image and the reissue is found in the small roundel. Lincoln’s portrait replaces Father Time, Baby New Year, and the kneeling slave. Whether Thomas Nast had approved this change or the issuing of the commemorative print is uncertain, but his message remains clear: the ills of America’s past can be corrected and as the US moves forward, new opportunities await for these emancipated Americans.

 

References:

Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission, “Juneteenth.”

Texas State Historical Association, “Juneteenth.”

Fiona Deans Halloran, Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2012).