Collection of social caricatures by Edward Williams Clay (1799-1857), the most prolific caricaturist of the Jacksonian era, lampooning the pretensions and social ambitions of early 19th-century middle-class Philadelphians, particularly the growing community of educated free African Americans. Influenced by the increasing racism in the North, the African American characters are depicted with exaggerated features, wearing garish attire, and speaking in patois and malapropisms to be portrayed as ineptly attempting to mimic white high society. Caricatures address courtship, society balls, fashion, freemasonry, and the election of Andrew Jackson.
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. Circa 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 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.
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.
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.