Saturday, December 31, 2016

In 19C North Carolina, New Years Day was Slave Hiring (or Buying) Day

INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL. WRITTEN BY HERSELF. WOMAN OF NORTH CAROLINA.  
Harriet Ann Jacobs 1813-1897 Edited by Lydia Maria Francis Child 1802-1880
From the Documenting the American South project of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

THE SLAVES' NEW YEAR'S DAY.

DR. FLINT owned a fine residence in town, several farms, and about fifty slaves, besides hiring a number by the year. Hiring-day at the south takes place on the 1st of January. On the 2d, the slaves are expected to go to their new masters. On a farm, they work until the corn and cotton are laid. They then have two holidays. Some masters give them a good dinner under the trees. This over, they work until Christmas eve. If no heavy charges are meantime brought against them, they are given four or five holidays, whichever the master or overseer may think proper. Then comes New Year's eve; and they gather together their little alls, or more properly speaking, their little nothings, and wait anxiously for the dawning of day. At the appointed hour the grounds are thronged with men, women, and children, waiting, like criminals, to hear their doom pronounced. The slave is sure to know who is the most humane, or cruel master, within forty miles of him.

It is easy to find out, on that day, who clothes and feeds his slaves well; for he is surrounded by a crowd, begging, "Please, massa, hire me this year. I will work very hard, massa." If a slave is unwilling to go with his new master, he is whipped, or locked up in jail, until he consents to go, and promises not to run away during the year. Should he chance to change his mind, thinking it justifiable to violate an extorted promise, woe unto him if he is caught! The whip is used till the blood flows at his feet; and his stiffened limbs are put in chains, to be dragged in the field for days and days! If he lives until the next year, perhaps the same man will hire him again, without even giving him an opportunity of going to the hiring-ground. After those for hire are disposed of, those for sale are called up.

O, you happy free women, contrast your New Year's day with that of the poor bond-woman! With you it is a pleasant season, and the light of the day is blessed. Friendly wishes meet you every where, and gifts are showered upon you. Even hearts that have been estranged from you soften at this season, and lips that have been silent echo back, "I wish you a happy New Year." Children bring their little offerings, and raise their rosy lips for a caress. They are your own, and no hand but that of death can take them from you. But to the slave mother New Year's day comes laden with peculiar sorrows. She sits on her cold cabin floor, watching the children who may all be torn from her the next morning; and often does she wish that she and they might die before the day dawns. She may be an ignorant creature, degraded by the system that has brutalized her from childhood; but she has a mother's instincts, and is capable of feeling a mother's agonies.

On one of these sale days, I saw a mother lead seven children to the auction-block. She knew that some of them would be taken from her; but they took all. The children were sold to a slave-trader, and their mother was bought by a man in her own town. Before night her children were all far away. She begged the trader to tell her where he intended to take them; this he refused to do. How could he, when he knew he would sell them, one by one, wherever he could command the highest price? I met that mother in the street, and her wild, haggard face lives to-day in my mind. She wrung her hands in anguish, and exclaimed, "Gone! All gone! Why don't God kill me?" I had no words wherewith to comfort her. Instances of this kind are of daily, yea, of hourly occurrence.

Slaveholders have a method, peculiar to their institution, of getting rid of old slaves, whose lives have been worn out in their service. I knew an old woman, who for seventy years faithfully served her master. She had become almost helpless, from hard labor and disease. Her owners moved to Alabama, and the old black woman was left to be sold to any body who would give twenty dollars for her.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Dwellings of African Americans before & after the Civil War

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin Scene


The dwellings of African Americans did not change dramatically after the Civil War, except that families usually occupied one cabin.  Before freedom, slaves usually slept in community cabins.  Theodore Weld collected descriptions of slave dwellings in the 1830s.  Genre painter William Aiken Walker painted many scenes of African American homes after the Civil War.


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Board and Batten Northern South Carolina Cabin 1886

Mr. Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skaneateles, N. Y. who has lived in Alabama. "The huts where the slaves slept, generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor.''


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin in the South

Mr. George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester, N. Y. who lived four years in Virginia. "Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Va., I can not call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; anything that a northern laborer, or mechanic, white or colored, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition, to separate the sexes.''


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin

William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine. President of the American Peace Society, formerly a slaveholder in Florida. "The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto leaf. The door, when they had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments, except the guinea negroes had sometimes a small inclosure for their 'god house.' These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays.''


 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin Scene

Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, Pastor Pres. Church, Castile, Greene Co., N. Y., who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837. "The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors, and have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together.''



William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin Scene

Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational Church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave states. "On old plantations, the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards, seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies from 8 by 10, to 10 by 12, feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass in any. In the new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of similar dimensions.''


 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin

Mr. Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian Church in Farmington, Ohio. Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-8. "Their houses were commonly built of logs, sometimes they were framed, often they had no floor, some of them have two apartments, commonly but one; each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted of a man and his wife and children, while in other instances persons of both sexes, were thrown together without any regard to family relationship.''


 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Log Cabin with Stretched Hide on Wall

The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves. "They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect, and sometimes no floor, and seldom raised from the ground, ill ventilated, and surrounded with filth.''


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Louisiana Cabin Scene with Stretched Hide on Weatherboard and Stock Chimney Covered with Clay 1878

Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of his life in Madison, Co. Alabama. "The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from 10 to 12 feet square, often without windows, doors, or floors, they have neither chairs, table, or bedstead.''


 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Negro Cabin by a Palm Tree

Reuben L. Macy of Hudson, N. Y. a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19. "The houses for the field slaves were about 14 feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.''


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin in the South

Mr. Lemuel Sapington of Lancaster, Pa. a native of Maryland, formerly a slaveholder. "The descriptions generally given of negro quarters, are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter.''


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Negro Cabin with Palm Tree

Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee. "When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber."


William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Negro Cabiin with Two-Pole Chimney

Philemon Bliss, Esq. Elyria, Ohio., who lived in Forida, in 1835. "The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment and very generally without floors.''  Mr. W. C. Gildersleeve, Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia. "Their huts were generally put up without a nail, frequently without floors, and with a single apartment.''  Hon. R. J. Turnbull, of South Carolina, a slaveholder. "The slaves live in clay cabins.''

Quotes from American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Women on the North American Canadian Frontier in 19C - by Dutch-born Cornelius Krieghoff 1815-1872

Cornelius Krieghoff (Dutch-born Canadian painter, 1815-1872) After the Ball, Chez Jolifou

Cornelius Krieghoff 1815-1872 was born in Amsterdam, spent his formative years in Bavaria, & studied in Rotterdam & Dusseldorf. He traveled to the United States in the 1830s, where he served in the Army for a few years. He married a young woman from Quebec & moved to the Montreal area, where he painted genre paintings of the people & countryside of Canada. According to Charles C. Hill, Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery, "Krieghoff was the first Canadian artist to interpret in oils... the splendour of our waterfalls, & the hardships & daily life of people living on the edge of new frontiers" Krieghoff moved to Quebec from 1854-1863, before he came to Chicago to live with his daughter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Sold South" - Baltimore City Slave Trade

Baltimore City Slave Trade
The Baltimore Sun  20 June 1999, 
by Scott Shane
E. Sachse's view of Baltimore City looking west from Calvert Street on Market Street c 1850.

ON JULY 24, 1863, three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, Union officers freed the inmates of a slave trader's jail on Pratt Street near the Baltimore harbor. They found a grisly scene.

"In this place I found 26 men, 1 boy, 29 women and 3 infants," Col. William Birney of the U.S. Colored Troops wrote to his commanding officer. "Sixteen of the men were shackled and one had his legs chained together by ingeniously contrived locks connected by chains suspended to his waist." 

The slaves were confined in sweltering cells or in the bricked-in yard of "Cam- liu's slave-pen," where "no tree or shrub grows" and "the mid-day sun pours down its scorching rays," Birney wrote. Among those imprisoned was a 4-month-old born in the jail and a 24-month-old who had spent all but the first month of his life behind bars.

The liberation of the slave jails marked the end of a brutal Baltimore institution whose story remains unknown except to a handful of local historians.

For a half-century before the Civil War, more than a dozen slave traders operated from harborside storefronts along Pratt and adjacent streets. Some advertised regularly in The Sun and other papers, declaring "5,000 Negroes Wanted" or "Negroes! Negroes! Negroes!" In an 1845 city directory, "Slave Dealers" are listed between "Silversmiths" and "Soap."

Out-of-town dealers would routinely stop for a week at Barnum's or another downtown hotel and place newspaper advertisements declaring their desire to buy slaves.

A routine spectacle was the dreary procession of black men, women and children in chains along Pratt Street to Fells Point, where ships waited to carry them south to New Orleans for auction. Weeping family members would follow their loved ones along the route; they knew their parting might be forever, as there would be no way to know where slaves shipped south would end up.

The grim drama in Baltimore was part of a major industry. Though the United States banned the import of slaves in 1808, the domestic slave trade thrived, as the need for labor shrank in the Chesapeake area and boomed in the Deep South, where the cotton gin had revolutionized agriculture. Between 1790 and 1859, according to one scholar's estimate, more than 1 million slaves were "sold south," most of them from Virginia and Maryland.

The broken families and severed relationships resulting from this commerce were a human catastrophe that can be compared in scale, if not in violence or death toll, to the original tragedy of the Middle Passage. Scholars estimate that perhaps 11 million captured Africans survived the journey to the Americas, but most went to Brazil and the Caribbean; only about 650,000 came to the colonies that would become the United States.

Yet the story of the domestic slave trade has been swallowed in America's long amnesia about slavery in general.

"A dream of mine would be to have a little Baltimore tour -- not showing where Frederick Douglass worked in Fells Point or where Thurgood Marshall lived, but where the slave traders were, where the slaves were whipped," says Ralph Clayton, a librarian at the central Pratt library and a historian who has authored most of the few works on the city's slave trade. "But I've run into many people of both races who say, 'Why are you digging this up? Leave it alone.'"

Agnes Kane Callum, dean of Maryland's African-American genealogists, remembers seeing a still-standing slave jail as a girl in the 1930s. Her father would take the family on Sunday drives and point out a hulking brick building with barred windows at Pratt and Howard streets.

"He called it a slave pen," recalls Callum, 74, a North Baltimore grandmother who has researched slavery for 30 years. "He'd say, 'That was where my grandmother was held.'" The slave dealer sold Callum's great-grandmother, who had been snatched as a girl from a beach in the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, to a plantation in St. Mary's County.

Camliu's and all the other physical evidence of Baltimore's once-thriving slave trade has been erased by demolition and redevelopment. But its history can be pieced together from surviving documents.

The slave jails served several purposes. Slave owners leaving for a trip could check their slaves into a jail to ensure they would not flee. Travelers stopping in Baltimore could lock up their slaves overnight while they slept at a nearby inn. Unwanted slaves or those considered unreliable because of runaway attempts could be sold and housed at the jail until a ship was ready to take them south, usually to New Orleans.

The slave ships anchored off Fells Point, which the traders' generally preferred because of fear of interference from the large number of free blacks working at the Inner Harbor, says Clayton. He has researched the story of an Amistad-style rebellion by slaves on one ship, the Decatur, southbound from Baltimore. The Sun carried ads for the ships' regular runs from Baltimore to New Orleans.

By the Civil War, while slaves outnumbered free blacks in Maryland, in Baltimore there were 10 free people of color for every slave. Yet the slave trade posed a constant threat to free African-Americans, who were in danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

In fact, the warden of the Baltimore County jail ran regular newspaper notices listing black men and women he had arrested on suspicion of being runaways but who claimed to be free. Each notice would include a detailed description and the admonition, "The owner of the above described negro man is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take him away, otherwise he will be discharged according to law."

In The Sun in 1838, Hope H. Slatter, a Georgia-born trader who succeeded Woolfolk as Baltimore's leading trafficker in human beings, announced under the heading "Cash for Negroes" the opening of a private jail at Pratt and Howard, "not surpassed by any establishment of the kind in the United States." Slatter offered to house and feed slaves there for 25 cents a day, declaring: "I hold myself bound to make good all jail breaking or escapes from my establishment."

To keep the supply flowing, Slatter added: "Cash and the highest prices will at all times be given for likely slaves of both sexes. ... Persons having such property to dispose of, would do well to see me before they sell, as I am always purchasing for the New Orleans market."

Facing complaints about the grim procession of chained human beings along Pratt Street, Slatter found a solution of sorts: He hired newfangled, horse-drawn "omnibuses" to move the slaves to the Fells Point docks. He would follow on horseback.

"The trader's heart was callous to the wailings of the anguished mother for her child. He heeded not the sobs of the young wife for her husband," wrote one abolitionist eyewitness whose account was discovered by Clayton.

"I saw a mother whose very frame was convulsed with anguish for her first born, a girl of 18, who had been sold to this dealer and was among the number then shipped. I saw a young man who kept pace with the carriages, that he might catch one more glimpse of a dear friend, before she was torn forever from his sight. As she saw him, she burst into a flood of tears, sorrowing most of all that they should see each other's faces no more," the abolitionist wrote.

Rogers' mother was particularly distraught, the flier said, because she had lost another daughter in the same manner four years earlier, "of whom she has never since heard." Rogers' stepfather, a free man, had offered to bind himself to service to work off the $850 necessary to buy her freedom. But the slave trader was unwilling to wait, so the preacher, identified as S. Guiteau, was trying to raise the necessary sum.

"Let mothers and daughters imagine the case their own," Guiteau wrote, "and they cannot but act with promptness."

Why have such spellbinding stories so rarely been told? Callum, the Baltimore genealogist, attributes it to the reluctance of both races to reopen the wound left by slavery.

"White people naturally don't want anyone to know their ancestors owned slaves," Callum says. But black people, too, have kept silent, she says. Callum's maternal grandfather was born into slavery, but when the subject arose, the old man would declare, "No man owned me!"

"His voice was so full of emotion, a hush would fall over the room," Callum recalls, sitting in her North Baltimore rowhouse surrounded by the tools of the genealogical trade.

"Some black people still feel that way today, six generations later," she says. "But we cannot let people forget our holocaust, the black holocaust of slavery."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

American Families by Eastman Johnson (1824-1906)

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) was an American painter who helped establish the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Best known for his genre paintings of scenes from everyday life, he also painted portraits of the famous & not so famous.

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) Christmas Time the Blodgett Family 1864 Detail

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) Fiddling His Way 1866 Detail

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) The Hatch Family 1871 Detail

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) Sunday Morning 1866 Detail

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) The Brown Family 1869 Detail

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) Life in the South 1859 Detail

Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) Fiddling 1866 Detail

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Civil War Christmas letter home

A Civil War Christmas letter
Winslow Homer. Christmas in a Civil War Camp  The illustration is captioned, "Christmas Boxes in Camp - Christmas 1861."  It is the front cover of the January 4, 1862 edition of Harper's Weekly. The illustration features a group of Civil War soldiers enjoying a box of goodies. The box contains all the things needed by tired soldiers.  Several soldiers appear to be enjoying bread & pastry items.  Also pictured are books, wine, & fruit.  Perhaps even more important than the food, the box appears to be full of new socks & footwear.

By Jen Wolfe – December 22, 2011
University of Iowa Libraries December 22, 2011

In contrast to today’s holiday letters summarizing the year’s major events, Lieut. Andrew F. Davis’ Christmas note to daughters Orrilla, age 8, and Nan, age 5, catalogs the day-to-day minutiae of life in a Civil War camp. Mixed in with holiday greetings (“I hope Santa Claus in his rambles last night did not miss the stockings of my two little girls”) are observations on camp fare (“country people sell [meals] cheap enough if they were only cooked good but they are poor people who bring them and they have to cook them by the fire in skillets as they have no cook stoves”), scenery (“there is several hundred tents in camp and all with lights in them which makes them look like big lanterns scattered all over the country”), and reactions to news from home (“Tell your ma I am glad she has got her hogs killed but I am afraid she will work so hard that she will be sick again”).

Andrew F. Davis letter to daughters, Dec. 25, 1861
Camp Wycliff Ky.
Miss Orrilla Davis and Nan Davis
My dear little daughters,
This is Christmas night and no doubt while I am setting in my tent in a war camp, you are enjoying yourselves at the Christmas Supper which I understand you are having at the Court House. No doubt you are enjoying yourselves over your Christmas presents and I hope Santa Claus in his rambles last night did not miss the Stockings of my two little girls but put something nice in them to make them happy. I got a Christmas present this evening which was nothing more than a letter from my dear little girl, and I now hasten to answer it. I was very sorry to hear that our sweet little babe was so sick but I hope it is getting well before this time and no doubt but what I will next hear that you and Nan will both have the measels and if you do you must be patient and you will soon get well again. I was surprised that you could write so good a letter & I read it to some of the boys and they said it contained more news than one half of the letters that they got from Liberty.

We did not have to drill today consequently I do not feel as tired as I do some nights. I will tell you what we had to eat today as you no doubt would like to know. Well we had roast chicken, oysters, peach pie, dried beef, molasses, brisket, butter, crackers, milk, sweet potatoes, rice, eggs &c. So you see we did not starve. It was not cooked as nice as your mother could cook it but it was very good. We bought most of it from country people and they sell them cheap enough if they were only cooked good but they are poor people who bring them and they have to cook them by the fire in skillets as they have no cook stoves. Stuffed chickens ready cooked are worth 20 & 25 cts, pies 10 cts, cabbage 5 cts apples 6 for 5 cts. milk 10 cts pr qt. roast turkies 75 and 80 cts. Sweet potatoes 75 cts per bushel, and many other things about the same. Jo Miller is in my tent while I am writing and almost cried when he read your letter. George [Rinehart?] come back from the Hospital today and is nearly well again. All of the Liberty boys are well now and none of them are at Louisville now.

I send with this letter 2 papers which I want you to take to Mr Thomas for him to publish in the Herald. I want to know if you are going to go to School this winter I gave $2.50 for the picture I sent home to your mother and the one I sent to your Grandpa, Tell mother if she can get the two big pictures framed for $5.00 to get it done but not to give any more than that. It is the prettyest sight I ever saw to go out of out tents after night before the lights are put out as our camp is on hilly ground and there is several hundred tents in camp and all with lights in them which makes them look like big lanterns scattered all over the country. Tell your ma I am glad she has got her hogs killed but I am afraid she will work so hard that she will be sick again. I got weighed today and weighed 167 lbs without my coat on so you see I am well and getting fat. Tell Nan I mean this letter for you and her both and I want her to get in some sly corner and write me one some of these days. Tell ma and uncle Newton that I have not got a newspaper from them since I have been Kentucky. Wm Appleton got last weeks Herald tonight and I got to read it. The darkie I had to cook for me went home today and one of the soldiers is cooking for me now. Ab. Bennett was to see me this evening and is going home in the morning. I am glad to hear that Wally Smith has been promoted to Sergeant as it proves that he has been a good soldier. Mans Crist is Sergeant in our company now.

The drums are now beating for us to put out the lights so I must stop for this time but will write to some of you again this week. You must write to me often as that is the way to learn, and you don’t know how glad it makes me to get a letter from my dear little girls. No more this time from your affectionate father,
 A.F. Davis

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Celebrating in Pennsylvania 1810-1820 with John Lewis Krimmel 1786-1821

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) The first known image of a Christmas tree in America

John Lewis Krimmel was born in Ebingen, Wurtemberg, Germany, in 1787, and accidently drowned near Germantown, Pennsylvania, in July of 1821. He came to Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence had been debated & signed, in 1809, to engage in business with his brother but soon abandoned the business to concentrate on his art. He began his art career painting portraits, but a copy of Wilkie's "Blind Fiddler" caught his attention; & he turned to humorous subjects and genre painting. Krimmel gathered information for his paintings in the American countryside around Philadelphia by observing local habits, rituals, & ceremonies, so even though he took most of his compositional formats from British prints made after paintings by the satirical artists William Hogarth & David Wilkie, his subject matter was familiar to his potential audience at the Pennsylvania Academy. He also painted more serious historical pictures, & at the time of his death he had received a commission to paint a large canvas on the landing of William Penn. Krimmel was president of the Society of American artists.

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) 4th of July 1819 in Philadelphia


John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Barroom Dancing 1820

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Portrait of Jacob Ritter Sr.

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Black Sawyers Working in Front of the Bank of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Blind Man's Bluff

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Country Wedding 1820

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Fourth of July in Centre Square Philadelphia, 1812

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) In an American Inn 1814

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Members of Philadelphia Soldiery

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Merrymaking at a Wayside Inn

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Nightlife in Philadelphia - An Oyster Barrow in front of the Chestnut Street Theater


John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Pepper-Pot Woman at the Philadelphia Market. 1811

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Philadelphia Election Day 1815

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Sunday Morning in front of the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) The Sleighing Frolic

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Young Girl With A Blue Dress

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) The Village Tavern

John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist, 1786-1821) Wordly Folk Questioning Chimney Sweeps and Their Master Before Christ Church in Philadelphia 1811-13

John Lewis Krimmel (German American arttist, 1786-1821) The Quilting Frolic 1813

Saturday, December 24, 2016

An Old Irishman tells about Christmas in America in the 1850s-60s

Edward o'Neill born 1858 in Brookfield, Massachusetts
Remembers Christmas past in 1938
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Interview by Louise G. Bassett for the Living Lore section.

Edward o'Neil was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel o'Neil, an Irish immigrant and Sarah Pritchard, daughter of a foreign missionary. Daniel o'Neil a railroad worker and farmer was a hard bitten man with little education and a decided contempt for any on who had. Mrs. o'Neil was gentle and sweet, but completely terrified by her domineering husband. For years they lived in a small house in an isolated part of Brookfield. Edward o'Neil has always lived in Brookfield. When very young he refused to go to school and no one in the family made him. He has never done much work - odd jobs now and again, but has depended on his hardworking sisters to keep him. He scorns any part in the community affairs except to criticize - something he does well and often. Edward o'Neil, Brookfield, Massachusetts. His only "special skills" are negative - a large and colorful vocabulary of cuss words and a flaming temper which he does not attempt to control.

An Old Irishman tells about Christmas

Edward o'Neil, who lives on the "old North Brookfield road, is one of Brookfield's oldest but most vigorous inhabitants.

I met him the other day just as he was finishing a five mile walk, his hands full of bitter-sweet, lovelier than I have ever seen around here. "Oh, where did you get it," I exclaimed. "I won't tell you," he snapped at me," if I did - you'd tell some one else - then they'd tell someone and purtty soon every fool in town would be goin' there to get some an' there wouldn't be none left. I like it myself an' I'm goin' to keep it fer myself long's I kin. I'll give you a piece though, long's you want some so bad." He selected a long branch with care.

"I'm saving this for Christmas" he added.

"What was the first Christmas you actually remember?" I asked.  In his faded eyes I saw a far off dreamy look.

"The first Christmas I remember was when I was four years old. The reason I remember it was because my mother gave me a big lump of brown sugar with a few drops of peppermint on it. I nibbled at that sugar a little bit at a time all day long and I can taste that peppermint to this day. You see, we were sort of pioneer people and we didn't have much - nor not much to get anything with. Every winter in my early days was hard times.

"The only other present my mother had to give that Christmas was a quarter of a dried orange peel and she give it to my sister to put in her bureau drawer to make her clothes smell sweet. My father didn't know much about Christmas. He'd been brought up by the Indians. His parents had been killed by redskins and he lived with the Indians until he was nearly twenty. My mother's parents were missionaries and of course she knew all about Christmas.

"I don't remember much about the Christmas's that came after that one when I got the lump of sugar with the peppermint on it, until I was twelve years old when my father gave me six boughten fish hooks. We made most of our fish hooks by forein' 'em ourselves before the fire. About that time my father got to flat boatin' down the river. Some time he'd be gone three or four months and when he came back he'd bring back things like store clothes and boots, and once he brought me a tie and then my mother'd hide 'em away and keep 'em and give 'em to us for Christmas. And from September 'till Christmas us kids'd have lots of fun huntin' around over the house and wonderin' what we was goin' to get.

"When I was fifteen my mother gave me a rifle of my own for Christmas. My father'd got it in Boston and this, with the exception of the one when I got the peppermint sugar, was my best Christmas.

"I was a grown man almost twenty-one before I ever saw a Christmas tree. A German family moved near us and they had a tree every year. They dipped the little candles themselves, colored 'em red with poke berry ink and fastened 'em on the trees some-how with wild turkey ribs. I never'd seen anything so purty in my life as those Christmas trees. We had to work awful hard in them days but we had our fun same as we do now. Well, if I don't run acrost you again, I wish you Merry Christmas."

And away he went, being stopped at every half block by someone who wanted to know, "Where did you get that lovely bitter sweet?"

But he only snapped "I won't tell you."

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ex-Slave Mary Reynold's Christmas Memories


Mary Reynolds was born in slavery to the Kilpatrick family in Black River, Louisiana:

"They give all the niggers fresh meat on Christmas and a plug tobacco all round. The highes' cotton picker gits a suit of clothes and all the women what had twins that year gits a outfittin' of clothes for the twins and a double, warm blanket."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. This collection contains over 20,000 pages of typewritten interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, both Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana began to document the life stories of former American slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934. In the midst of the Depression between 1936 and 1939, these narratives continued to be collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They were assembled and microfilmed in 1941, as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The collection includes photos of the interviewees taken in the 1930s as well as their full interviews. Those whose voices are included in the collection ranged in age from 1 to 50 at the time of emancipation in 1865; more than 2/3 were over 80 when they were interviewed.

The problem that I have with these interviews is the language as reported by the interviewers. The Library of Congress explains on their website, "The narratives usually involve some attempt by the interviewers to reproduce in writing the spoken language of those interviewed...The interviewers were writers, not professionals trained in the phonetic transcription of speech...by the 1930s, when the interviews took place, white representations of black speech already had an ugly history of entrenched stereotype dating back at least to the early 19C." What most white interviewers assumed to be "the usual" patterns of their informants' speech was unavoidably influenced by the 1930s preconceptions and stereotypes of the interviewers themselves. "The result, as the historian Lawrence W. Levine wrote, "is a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism" that may sometimes be offensive to today's readers. Yet whatever else they may be, the representations of speech in the narratives are a pervasive and forceful reminder that these documents are not only a record of a time that was already history when they were created: they are themselves irreducibly historical, the products of a particular time and particular places."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ex-Slave Nicey Pugh's Christmas Memories


Nicey Pugh was born a slave to Master Jim Bettis in Alabama:

"At Christmas time, Massa would have a bunch of niggers to kill a hog an' barbecue him, an' de womens would make' lasses cake, an' ole massa Jim had some kinda seed dat he made beer outen, an' we-alls drank beer 'roun' Christmas."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. This collection contains over 20,000 pages of typewritten interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, both Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana began to document the life stories of former American slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934. In the midst of the Depression between 1936 and 1939, these narratives continued to be collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They were assembled and microfilmed in 1941, as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The collection includes photos of the interviewees taken in the 1930s as well as their full interviews. Those whose voices are included in the collection ranged in age from 1 to 50 at the time of emancipation in 1865; more than 2/3 were over 80 when they were interviewed.

The problem that I have with these interviews is the language as reported by the interviewers. The Library of Congress explains on their website, "The narratives usually involve some attempt by the interviewers to reproduce in writing the spoken language of those interviewed...The interviewers were writers, not professionals trained in the phonetic transcription of speech...by the 1930s, when the interviews took place, white representations of black speech already had an ugly history of entrenched stereotype dating back at least to the early 19C." What most white interviewers assumed to be "the usual" patterns of their informants' speech was unavoidably influenced by the 1930s preconceptions and stereotypes of the interviewers themselves. "The result, as the historian Lawrence W. Levine wrote, "is a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism" that may sometimes be offensive to today's readers. Yet whatever else they may be, the representations of speech in the narratives are a pervasive and forceful reminder that these documents are not only a record of a time that was already history when they were created: they are themselves irreducibly historical, the products of a particular time and particular places."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ex-Slave Emma Taylor's Christmas Memories


Emma Taylor was born a slave of the Greer family, in Mississippi. She and her mother later were sold to a Texan:

"Sometimes de niggers danced and played de fiddle and us chillen played in de yard. We could stay up all night dem times, but had to work next day, and hardly ever stayed up all night. Dat durin' harvest or at Christmas time."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. This collection contains over 20,000 pages of typewritten interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, both Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana began to document the life stories of former American slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934. In the midst of the Depression between 1936 and 1939, these narratives continued to be collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They were assembled and microfilmed in 1941, as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The collection includes photos of the interviewees taken in the 1930s as well as their full interviews. Those whose voices are included in the collection ranged in age from 1 to 50 at the time of emancipation in 1865; more than 2/3 were over 80 when they were interviewed.

The problem that I have with these interviews is the language as reported by the interviewers. The Library of Congress explains on their website, "The narratives usually involve some attempt by the interviewers to reproduce in writing the spoken language of those interviewed...The interviewers were writers, not professionals trained in the phonetic transcription of speech...by the 1930s, when the interviews took place, white representations of black speech already had an ugly history of entrenched stereotype dating back at least to the early 19C." What most white interviewers assumed to be "the usual" patterns of their informants' speech was unavoidably influenced by the 1930s preconceptions and stereotypes of the interviewers themselves. "The result, as the historian Lawrence W. Levine wrote, "is a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism" that may sometimes be offensive to today's readers. Yet whatever else they may be, the representations of speech in the narratives are a pervasive and forceful reminder that these documents are not only a record of a time that was already history when they were created: they are themselves irreducibly historical, the products of a particular time and particular places."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Confederate Civil War Christmas Memories of Meta Morris Grimball 1862 in South Carolina


Journal of Meta Morris Grimball: South Carolina, December 1860-February 1866: At
the Grove Plantation, St. Paul's Parish, South Carolina

Margaret Ann "Meta" Morris Grimball, 1810-1881, was a descendent of Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1830, she married John Berkley Grimball (1800-1892), who owned a rice plantation near Adam's Run, South Carolina. They had nine children, whom they brought up at the plantation and in Charleston. During the Civil War, the family sought safety in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The plantation was confiscated by federal troops but returned to the family in 1866. The Grimballs were unable to continue mortgage payments and lost the house in 1870. Meta kept a diary before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. In it she records the major events of the day and their effect on her family's life. Grimball juxtaposes common domestic concerns with larger issues related to the Civil War, including slavery, personal safety, and religion. See Documenting the American South (DocSouth.unc.edu), a digital publishing initiative of the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

1862
Daughter Elizabeth had a charming Christmas day...She was invited to spend the day with Mrs Dawkins, at Union, where there is a very nice Episcopal Church...There was a plentiful breakfast on their arrival, and then the Christmas tree for the children, with little gifts made by kind hands. After the tree they practised the Church Music, then went to Church, where E. took her place in the Choir, they returned to Mrs D's, had a real Christmas dinner...We went to hear Mr Whiteford Smith preach in the morning, had a fine sermon...came home to a dinner of Roast pig and a pudding, which we all enjoyed...In the evening short cake, and a great deal of pleasant talk. - Just now we have some sausages, and I am glad Mr Grimball is with us to enjoy them.

Son Berkley writes that his Christmas passed very pleasantly, they had a fine breakfast, of Opossum, Partridges, corn bread, & butter. A dinner with company. - In the Evening Theatricals a burlesque on the Ghost Scene in Hamlet. The dying scene of Lady Macbeth, and then a piece called the stolen pig, a man comes to the Captain of the Company complaining of having lost a pig, & says his negro, Cuffy, saw who took it. The Court Martial is arranged and the whole company called out, and Cuffy is made to point to the man who stole the pig. The part of the negro is played by Simons; and to the great delight of the negroes present, composed of teamsters, & servants there was music between the acts. Berkley lead the Orchestra, which consisted of 2 Violins, a triangle, bones, a drum. The end of the play is that the man is sentenced to death, and dies like Othello.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ex-Slave Ellen Butler's Christmas Memories


Ellen Butler was born a slave to Richmond Butler, near Whiska Chitte, in the northern part of Calacasieu Parish (now a part of Beau Regard Parish), in Louisiana:


"On Christmas time they give us a meal. I 'member that. I don't 'member no other holidays."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. This collection contains over 20,000 pages of typewritten interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, both Fisk University in Tennessee and Southern University in Louisiana began to document the life stories of former American slaves. Kentucky State College continued the work in 1934. In the midst of the Depression between 1936 and 1939, these narratives continued to be collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They were assembled and microfilmed in 1941, as the 17-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. The collection includes photos of the interviewees taken in the 1930s as well as their full interviews. Those whose voices are included in the collection ranged in age from 1 to 50 at the time of emancipation in 1865; more than 2/3 were over 80 when they were interviewed.

The problem that I have with these interviews is the language as reported by the interviewers. The Library of Congress explains on their website, "The narratives usually involve some attempt by the interviewers to reproduce in writing the spoken language of those interviewed...The interviewers were writers, not professionals trained in the phonetic transcription of speech...by the 1930s, when the interviews took place, white representations of black speech already had an ugly history of entrenched stereotype dating back at least to the early 19C." What most white interviewers assumed to be "the usual" patterns of their informants' speech was unavoidably influenced by the 1930s preconceptions and stereotypes of the interviewers themselves. "The result, as the historian Lawrence W. Levine wrote, "is a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism" that may sometimes be offensive to today's readers. Yet whatever else they may be, the representations of speech in the narratives are a pervasive and forceful reminder that these documents are not only a record of a time that was already history when they were created: they are themselves irreducibly historical, the products of a particular time and particular places."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Confederate Civil War Christmas Memories of Julia Johnson Fisher of Georgia


DIARY OF JULIA JOHNSON FISHER, 1864

Julia Johnson Fisher, 1814-1885, was a native of Massachusetts, living with her husband, William Fisher (1788-1878), and her children in an isolated area in Camden County, Georgia, near the Florida border. The diary contains comments on conditions and incidents of daily life, family and neighborhood news, personal thoughts, and reports of military activity in the region. See Documenting the American South (DocSouth.unc.edu), a digital publishing initiative of the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

1864
On Christmas day we fared sumptuously. Mrs. Lynn dined with us and furnished the turkey. We had some chickens and a piece of fresh pork. Gussie had been off ten miles and brought oysters--so we had an oyster stew and chicken salad, minus the greens, potatoes and rice. The turkey was dressed with corn bread. Our dessert was a corn meal pudding wet with water, enriched with bottled huckleberries and pork fat; sauce made of borrowed syrup and flour--it was excellent, how we did relish it! but we talked of the good pies and bread and cakes that linger in remembrance, and the nuts and apples that pass around so freely in that land of plenty. It is hard to be so entirely deprived of them but we try to console ourselves with the fact that we enjoy better health and appetites. We are always hungry-- hungry the year round, but do not grow fat.