Collection of primarily racist social caricatures lampooning the etiquette and conventions of early 19th-century, middle-class Philadelphians, particularly the growing community of free African American persons. Eliciting the heightened racism in the antebellum North, the African American men, women, and children characters are depicted with exaggerated features, wearing boldly-patterned and colored clothes, and speaking in a vernacular to be portrayed and denigrated as illegitimate elite society. Caricatures address courtship, consumerism, society balls, fashion, freemasonry, and the election of Andrew Jackson. Some caricatures also represent the sexism of the era.
Originally published in Philadelphia as a set of fourteen prints; the first eleven were issued in 1828 and 1829 by William Simpson, a proprietor of a "fancy store." Sarah Hart and Son, stationers, published plates 12 and 13 in 1829. The last plate was issued by Sarah Hart alone in 1830. Probably in 1830 Sarah Hart reprinted the entire series. Additional African American caricatures by Clay, "Sketches of Character. At Home. Abroad," "The Dead Cut," "Back to Back," and "Philadelphia Fashions" published between 1829 and 1837 have generally been accepted and are identified as a part of the series., LCP holds entire series. Ten of the fourteen are first editions and four are reprints.
LCP AR [Annual Report] 1967 p. 51-53; 1968 p. 18-20.
Nancy Reynolds Davison's E.W. Clay: American Political Caricaturist of the Jacksonian Era. (PhD. diss., The University of Michigan, 1980), p. 85-100.
Nancy R. Davison, ‘E.W Clay’s Life in Philadelphia: A Moment in Time,’ Imprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collector’s Society (Autumn 2018), p. 2-29.
Jean Fagen Yellin and John Van Horne, eds. The Abolitionist Sisterhood (Ithaca: Cornell University Press in cooperation with the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1994), p. 218-222.
Jasmine Cobb, Picture freedom: Remaking Black visuality in the 19th century (New York: New York University Press, 2015), p. 148-220.
Bulk of collection was accessioned in 1999. One print (5656.F.39) accessioned in 1893. Several of the prints were acquired and/or accessioned between 1968 and 1971.
Added to African Americana Digital Collection through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of the Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, Governor, 2013-2014.