Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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."

Sunday, July 28, 2019

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"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."

Monday, July 22, 2019

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.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

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

Other comments about hosing slaves included these. 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.''

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Lyrical & Isolated American Women by Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) The 1893 Carnation

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) Lady in Green 1910

The paintings of Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938), an American painter Tonalist born in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts. He Studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, & later settled into a studio in New York City. Dewing painted thin, wide-boned females, usually you alone, engaged in actions impassive & situated in gauzy, dreamy, confined interiors. Dewing's scenes are infused with subtle color harmonies which pervade the entire painting, setting tone & mood. These women seem like captives of the Victorian age, both culturally & sexually; & they make me feel lonely.
Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) The Piano 1891

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) The Palm Leaf Fan

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) Lady in White No. 1

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) Lady in Blue Portrait of Annie Lazarus

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) Young Girl Seated 1896

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) Woman in Black Portrait Maria Oakey Dewing 1887


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)


Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)

  Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)