Monday, April 14, 2014
London printmakers published hundreds of popular & satirical mezzotints between 1760 and 1800, many of which quickly found their way to the British American colonies and later to the new republic.
These 1767 calendar prints published by Carington Bowles & Robert Sayer in London, give a glimpse into the everyday life of gentlewomen in the larger British world which is seldom found in more formal art. They depict clothing changes across the seasons as well as outdoor activities.
Monday, April 7, 2014
Slave Revolt of 1712
In the early 1700s, New York had one of the largest slave populations of any of England’s colonies. Nearly one out of every five New York residents was enslaved. Slavery in New York differed from some of the Southern colonies because there were no large plantations in the crowded city. Many of the enslaved Africans were skilled workers, carpenters, stone masons, fishermen, & boat builders. Enslaved women mostly worked indoors as domestic labor, whereas men spent most of their day outdoors bringing goods to & fro from the docks, & doing other skilled & unskilled jobs throughout the city.
In 1712, Manhattan's population was about 6,000 living in an area twenty blocks long by 10 blocks wide; over 15% of those inhabitants were enslaved Africans. Within this small area, slaves lived with their masters & worked along side white servants & other slaves. These slaves lived & worked next to free & indentured whites, & some intermarried when they got their freedom.
The stage was set for an uprising. First, the city had a large population of black slaves -- the result of many years of trade with the West Indies. Secondly, communication & meeting among enslaved persons was relatively easy, since the New York City's inhabitants lived in a small area on the southern tip of Manhattan. Thirdly, living in such a densely populated area also meant that slaves worked in close proximity to free men.
No one knows for certain what caused the revolt that happened the night of April 6, 1712, but this much is known: More than 20 armed Africans, perhaps both men & women, set fire to a building. Perhaps after meeting in a tavern, blacks gathered in an orchard on Maiden Lane on the night of April 6, 1712. It was midnight. Armed with guns, hatchets, & swords, the men set fire to a building in the middle of town. The fire spread. While white colonists gathered to extinguish the blaze, the slaves attacked, then ran off. At least nine whites had been shot, stabbed, or beaten to death; another eight were wounded.
Militia units from Westchester & the fort in lower New York put down the insurrection. Seventy slaves & free blacks were jailed. Forty-three slaves were tried in the Court of Quarter Sessions. Eighteen were acquitted & 25 convicted, resulting in 20 being hanged & three burned at the stake.
The details of this revolt are provided by Robert Hunter, who was the governor of New York & New Jersey from 1710 to 1719. In a letter to the Lords of Trade in London written three months after the insurrection, Gov. Hunter describes the slave revolt.
A Letter from Governor Robert Hunter (1664-1734), June 23, 1712:
I must now give your Lordships an account of a bloody conspiracy of some of the slaves of this place, to destroy as many of the inhabitants as they could....when they had resolved to revenge themselves, for some hard usage they apprehended to have received from their masters (for I can find no other cause) they agreed to meet in the orchard of Mr. Crook in the middle of the town, some provided with fire arms, some with swords & others with knives & hatchets. This was the sixth day of April, the time of the meeting was about twelve or one clock in the night, when about three & twenty of them were got together. One...slave to one Vantilburgh set fire to [a shed] of his masters, & then repairing to his place where the rest were, they all sallyed out together with their arms & marched to the fire. By this time, the noise of the fire spreading through the town, the people began to flock to it. Upon the approach of several, the slaves fired & killed them. The noise of the guns gave the alarm, & some escaping, their shot soon published the cause of the fire, which was the reason that nine Christians were killed, & about five or six wounded. Upon the first notice, which was very against them, but the slaves made their retreat into the woods, by the favour of the night. Having ordered the day following, the militia of this town & the country of West Chester to drive [to] the Island, & by this means & strict searches in the town, we found all that put the design in execution, six of these having first laid violent hands upon themselves [committed suicide], the rest were forthwith brought to their tryal before ye Justices of this place....In that court were twenty seven condemned, whereof twenty one were executed, one being a woman with a child, her execution by than means suspended. Some were burnt, others hanged, one broke on the wheel, & one hung alive in chains in the town, so that there has been the most exemplary punishment inflicted that could be possibily thought of.
(E. B. Callaghan, ed. (1885) Documents relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York. Vol. V, p.341-345)
Within months of the revolt, the General Assembly passed a law allowing slave masters to punish slaves at their discretion & effectively made impossible the freeing of slaves. White New Yorkers had been apprehensive before the revolt of April 6; now they were spurred into action. No longer could more than three black slaves meet. A master could punish his slaves as he saw fit (even for no reason at all), as long as the slave did not lose his or her life or limb. Any slave handling a firearm would receive twenty lashes. Anyone caught gambling would be whipped in public. Involvement in a conspiracy to kill would result in execution, as would a rape. There was even a law that discouraged masters from freeing a slave: The master could free a slave, but only after posting a bond of 200 [pounds]. This money would be paid to the freed slave if that slave couldn't support himself or herself.
Berlin, Ira & Harris, Leslie (2005), Slavery in New York, New York: New Press, ISBN 1-56584-997-3.
Horton, James & Horton, Lois (2005), Slavery and the Making of America, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517903-X.
Katz, William Loren (1997), Black Legacy, A History of New York's African Americans, New York: Atheneum, ISBN 0-689-31913-4.
Friday, April 4, 2014
Massachusetts-born painter Ralph Earl (1751-1801) was known primarily for his portraits. By 1774, he was working in New Haven, Connecticut, as a portrait painter. In 1775, Earl visited Lexington & Concord, which were the sites of recent battles between the colonists & the British. Working in collaboration with the engraver Amos Doolittle, Earl drew 4 battle scenes that were used as pro-Revolutionary propaganda prints. As it turned out, although his father was a colonel in the Revolutionary army, Earl himself was apparently a Loyalist. In 1778, he escaped to England by disguising himself as the servant of British army captain John Money. These prints are at the New York City Public Library.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
1712 Justus Englehardt Kuhn (fl in Maryland 1708-1717). Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702 - 1782).
In colonial British America, the sons of gentry were painted with deer pets, while their elders often built reserves to protect & nurture deer. A deer park was a large enclosed natural area of wood & field on the pleasure grounds near a dwelling. It served as a refuge in which to keep & preserve natural & imported deer. A park is nature bounded, preserved, and protected for a wide range of uses & values.
Initially, deer were kept to be eaten. As economic stability increased & the industrial revolution began making inroads on rural life, the focus of the deer park changed from keeping deer for food and the pleasure of the hunt to keeping deer nearby in a natural setting to inspire & renew the owner's family & guests' social & psychological well-being.
Venison & buckskin became staples of the British American colonial economy with the first landings at Jamestown, & Plymouth. Deer were hunted by both the settlers & the native Americans. Once the natives learned that a venison haunch was worth a yard of fabric or a trade axe; they trapped, snared, & killed deer with impunity. By 1630, many coastal tribes had access to European firearms; and one Indian hunter with a gun could kill 5 or 6 deer in a day.
Deer declined rapidly along the Atlantic seaboard throughout the 17C. As early as 1639, authorities in Newport, Rhode Island recognized the danger of deer depletion and established the first closed season on deer hunting in the colonies. In 1646, the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, followed suit ordering a closed season on deer hunting “from the first of May till the first of November; and if any shall shoot a deere within that time he shall forfeit five pounds …” The ordinance set a pattern for laws adopted by most of the colonies by 1720.
c. 1730-1735 Gerardus Duyckinck (American artist, 1695-1746). De Peyster Boy with a deer.
The preamble of the Connecticut law reflected concern over the future of native deer, "The killing of deer at unseasonable times of the year hath been found very much to the prediudice of the Colonie, great numbers of them having been hunted and destroyed in deep snowes when they are very poor and big with young, the flesh and skins of very little value, and the increase greatly hindered."
In 1705, the General Assembly at Newport, Rhode Island, noted that it, "hath been informed that great quantities of deer hath been destroyed in this Collony out of season … and may prove much to the damage of this Collony for the future, and … to the whole country, if not prevented." And in 1705, New York passed a law to protect deer.
In 1727, Virginia's Governor William Gooch decided that he could turn the large deer park at the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg "to better use I think than Deer."
Deer laws varied from colony to colony, calling for closed seasons, sometimes terms of years, to the prohibition of using hounds; killing does; export & sale of deer skins; hunting with fire at night; & hunting on Sundays. The goal of these laws was to protect the food resource represented by deer.
Laws protecting deer were loosely enforced. There were only scattered convictions; and by 1750, there were relatively few deer left to protect near towns & larger rural communities. Frontier settlers still lived off the land and killed for venison & hides, when they needed them. Along the edges of the retreating American wilderness, natives & European market hunters still combed the thickets for game in all seasons, far from the reach of any local “deer reeve” or "deer warden." (In New England, these were the mid 18th-century government officers appointed to track down poachers.)
Poachers were dealt with much less seriously in the British American colonies than they were in mother England. In fact, Pennsylvania & Vermont allowed fishing & hunting on all open lands in their colonies. The 1696 Frame of Government of Pennsylvania stated, "That the inhabitants of this province and territories thereof, shall have liberty to fish and hunt, upon the lands they hold, or all other lands therein, not inclosed, and to fish in all waters in the said lands."
Peter Kalm, the Swedish-Finnish explorer and naturalist who traveled through North America from 1748 - 1751, published an account of his travels in a journal entitled En Resa til Norra America, which was translated into German, Dutch, French, and English. Kalm noted that “The American deer can likewise be tamed. A farmer in New Jersey had one in his possession, which he caught when it was very young; at present, it is so tame that in the daytime it runs into the woods for its food, and towards night returns home, frequently bringing a wild deer out of the woods, giving its master an opportunity to hunt at his very door.”
Deer parks certainly existed in the New York area during this period. Rev Andrew Burnaby described a deer park in New Jersey in 1760, "I went down two miles further to the park and gardens of...Peter Schuyler...in the park I saw several American and English deer, and three or four elks or moose-deer."
In 1764, the commandant at Fort Pitt near Pittsburg, Capt. Simeon Ecuyer, was in the midst of fencing the fort's gardens, when he commented on the fort's, "deer park, the little garden and the bowling green, I am just now making into one garding, it will be extremely pretty and very useful to this garrison, the King's Garden will be put in proper order in due time we want seeds very much and we have no potatoes at all."
About 17 miles from Annapolis, Bel-Air, the estate of Marylander Benjamin Tasker, was advertised for sale in the 1761 Pennsylvania Gazette. The 2,200 acres contained a 100 acre deer park "well inclosed and stocked with English Deer."
In 1774, at the late John Smith estate in New Jersey, 5 miles from Burlington on the Anococus River, there was a deer park containg 375 acres in which there were 30-40 deer. The area was surrounded by 20,000 cedar rails in different fences according to the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Many gentry families did not worry about hunting meat for their tables. They simply raised their own supply. Edward Lloyd IV (1744–1796) was a planter from Talbot County, Maryland. He rebuilt the family home called Wye House in the 1780s. The house was then surrounded by 12,000 acres & tended by over 300 slaves.
English agricultural writer Richard Parkinson visited Wye House and wrote, "I then was introduced to Ed. Lloyd, Esq. at Why-House, a man of very extensive possessions...His house and gardens are what may be termed elegant: and the land appeared the best I ever saw in any one spot in America. He had a deer-park, which is a very rare thing there: I saw but two in the country; this, and another belonging to Colonel Mercer. These parks are but small—not above fifty acres each. I could scarcely tell what the deer lived on. There were only some of those small rushes growing in this park which bear the name of grass, and leaves of trees." When Lloyd died in 1796, his deer park contained 61 deer.
Parkinson was probably refering to Virginia-born John Francis Mercer (1759-1821) as the other gentleman who had a deer park. In 1785, he married Sophia Sprigg, the daughter of Richard & Margaret Sprigg of Maryland, following which he took up residence at "Cedar Park" on West River not far from Annapolis, the estate inherited by his wife from her father. He was elected Governor of Maryland in 1801, and was buried in the graveyard at the foot of the garden on his grounds. He left an estate valued at $16,978.75, including 73 slaves. Reportedly the English-style deer park was in a virgin stand of trees, including cedars, from which the estate took its name.
George Washington wrote in 1792, "I have about a dozen deer (some of which are the common sort) which are no longer confined in the Paddock which was made for them but range in all my woods and often pass my exterior fence" Washington received gifts of deer from friends & well wishers, as he did rare plants.
Early deer parks included those at the Waltham, Massachusettes estate of Theodore Lyman and at the Robinson Estate, built in 1750, opposite the present West Point Academy on the Hudson River. Deer in the landscape made the pleasure grounds surrounding these seats seem more "natural."
1745 Artist Frederick Tellschaw. Thomas Lodge with deer.
Historian Gary S Dunbar surveyed South Carolina records for mentions of tame deer. Here are a few of his findings from newspaper advertisements from Charleston,
(1732) “Stray’d out of Mr. Saxby’s Pasture up the Path, two tame Deer about a Year old."
(1751) “Wanted, some Doe Fawns, or young Does, for breeders.”
(1760) “Jumped over from on board the Samuel & Robert, a young deer, with a piece of red cloth round his neck…three pounds reward.”
(1761) “The Owner of a strayed Deer may hear where there is one, applying to the Printer hereof, and paying for this Advertisement.”
(1767) “Two tame Deer, a Buck and a Doe, to be sold by Francis Nicholson, in King-street.”
(1768) “Josiah Smith, junior…is in immediate want of …a couple of Tame Deer.”
(1770) “Stolen or Strayed out of my Yard this Morning, a Young Deer, his Horns just coming out, and is stiff in his hind legs, by being crampt in the Waggen which brought him to Town…Charles Crouch.”
(1772) “Wanted to Purchase. Four Deer, each about Three Years old.”
(1772) “Wanted immediately…Two Tame Deer.”
(1781) “A Tame Deer, Came to my garden about twelve days ago. The owner, on proving his property, and paying charges, shall have it again, by applying to Elizabeth Lamb, Near the Saluting Battery.”
By the late 18C, it seems that deer-keeping was in decline in Charleston. A visitor remarked in 1782, that “the deer formerly ran about the streets, with collars round their necks, like dogs, but at this latter visit, I do not remember to have seen one.”
Jedidiah Morse wrote in his 1789 Geography of the deer at Mount Vernon, Virginia, "A small park on the margin of the river, where the English fallow-deer, and American wild-deer are seen through the thickets."
Isaac Weld also commented in 1794, of the deer park at Mount Vernon, "The ground in the rear of the house is also laid out in a lawn, and the declivity of the Mount, towards the water, in a deer park."
Detail 1792 Artist Edward Savage (1761-1817). Mount Vernon with Deer.
George Mason's (1725-1792) son General John Mason (1766-1849) described the deer park at 18C Gunston Hall, Virginia, which sat on the Potomac River near Mount Vernon. "On this plain adjoining the margin of the hill, opposite to and in full view from the garden, was a deer park, studded with trees, kept well fenced and stocked with native deer domesticated."
In a description borrowing from Morse's 1789 depiction of George Washington's Mount Vernon in the Pennsylvania Gazette shortly after his death, his deer park was described. "A small park on the margin of the river, where the English fallow deer and the American wild deer are seen through the thickets alternately, with the vessels as they are sailing along, add a romantic and picturesque appearance to the whole scenery."
One noted deer owner of the period was Revolutionary War veteran Dr. Benjamin Jones. Born in Virginia in 1752, Jones eventually purchased a large tract of land in Henry County, where he built a park and “kept over a hundred deer to amuse his children and grandchildren. A little bell he used on a pet deer is owned by one of his descendants.”
The number of deer parks dwindled in the early republic. Many pleasure gardeners were not convinced of the romantic & picturesque asthetic potential of deer in the new republic, and became exasperated with the local destructive deer population.
In 1818, Rosalie Steir Calvert (1778–1821) wrote from her home Riversdale just outside of Washington DC in Prince George's County, Maryland, "I haven’t been able to enjoy the tulips because the deer come and eat them every night. We have eleven of these beautiful animals, so tame that they come all around the house...However, they do a lot of damage to the young fruit trees, and I am afraid we shall have to kill all of them this fall."
I could find no portraits of people attending deer, until I saw this wonderful image.
It has been nearly impossible to find American paintings of deer with women. Early paintings in Europe & Britain do have portraits of women & families with accompanying deer. Here are a few.
Dunbar, Gary S.. “Deer-Keeping in Early South Carolina,” Agricultural History, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr., 1962)
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Dogs & cats appear in portraits of 18C American women, but I am not sure if these pets are emblems or symbols or copies of English prints, or are they actual pets?
Before the 1760s, most dogs appear in colonial American paintings with children. Smaller pet dogs often were referred to as comfort dogs. Most other dogs depicted in 18C English & Anglo American paintings were sporting dogs. William Shakespeare had noted fox-hunting hounds in A Midsummer Night's Dream, when Theseus, duke of Athens, tells Hippolyta of "the music of my hounds, matched in mouth like bells / Each under each. A cry more tunable / Was never holloed to nor cheered with horn."
During the 17C in colonial British America, life for a dog could prove tenative, especially during the Salem witch trials. From June to September in 1692, 156 people were accused; 14 women, 5 men, & 2 dogs were hanged--children accused the dogs of giving them the "evil eye."
However, Pennsylvania's founder William Penn (1644-1718) took a more sympathetic approach to dogs. He wrote in his Reflexions and Maxims that "men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children."
An increase in dogs as pets occurred just as scientific classification of species of plants & animals was growing. The 1st official classification of English breeds was published in 1570, by British physician John Caius (1510-1573) in De Canibus Britannicis, or Of English Dogges. Among other types, he identified bloodhounds & terriers, otter hounds & Maltese. During the 18C, an era of taxonomies & catalogues, Georges Buffon (1707-1788) & Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) expanded on the definition of Caius, with Linnaeus listing such animals as the Shepherd's Dog, the Pomeranian, the Iceland Dog, the Lesser Water Dog, the Mastiff, & the Barbet.
As the scientific interest in dog species grew, the expanding love of humans for canines was endorsed by philosophers, playwrights, and poets. Voltaire wrote, "the best thing about man is the dog." Alexander Pope declared that "histories are more full of examples of fidelity of dogs than of friends."
In Pope's Essay on Man, he writes condescendingly of Native Americans & their faithful dogs.
Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor'd mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul proud Science never taught to stray
Far as the Solar Walk, or Milky Way;
Yet simple Nature to his hope has giv'n,
Behind the cloud-topp'd hill, an humbler heav'n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd,
Some happier island in the wat'ry-waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christian thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire,--
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
1728 New York Depeyster Limmer. Depeyster Twins: Eva & Catherina with Dog
Writing tributes to beloved pets increased into the 18C. In 1693, English poet & diplomat Matthew Prior (1664-1721) wrote a short elegy at the death of True, a pet of Queen Mary II:
Envious Fate has claim'd its due,
Here lies the mortal part of True.
English poet John Gay (1685-1732) published "An Elegy on a Lap-Dog" in 1720:
He's dead. Oh lay him gently in the ground!
And may his tomb be by this verse renown'd.
Here Shock, the pride of all his kind, is laid;
Who fawned like man, but ne'er like man betray'd.
1730s Child of the Pierpont Family with Dog
In Scotland, Robert Burns (1759-1796) wrote that "the dog puts the Christian to shame."
In the British American colonies in 1738, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "There are three faithful friends—an old wife, an old dog, and ready money."
c. 1735 Charles Bridges (1670-1747). Anne Byrd with Dog
The rise in fox hunting in both England and its American colonies spawned a need for a medium-sized hound with the stamina to follow prey for miles, a keen nose for scent, & a bark that could summon his master from a distance. While women did not participate in the hunt itself, they were part of the audience & the elegant suppers that followed the hunt.
One of the first packs of hunting dogs was brought to America in 1650 by Robert Brooke of Maryland. They were black & tan & chased the slower gray fox. Often recorded as English hounds, these dogs now are thought to have been the Irish Kerry Beagle.
Historian James Horn tells us that in 1799, a wry New England minister gave a glimpse of the sport:
From about the first of Octor. this amusement begins, and continues till March or April. A party of 10, and to 20, or 30, with double the number of hounds, begins early in the morning, they are all well mounted. They pass thro' groves, Leap fences, cross fields, and steadily pursue, in full chase wherever the hounds lead. At length the fox either buroughs out of their way, or they take him. If they happen to be near, when the hounds seize him, they take him alive, and put him into a bag and keep him for a chase the next day. They then retire in triumph, having obtained a conquest to a place where an Elegant supper is prepared. After feasting themselves, and feeding their prisoner, they retire to their own houses. The next morning they all meet at a place appointed, to give their prisoner another chance for his life. They confine their hounds, and let him out of the bag—away goes Reynard at liberty—after he has escaped half a mile—hounds and all are again in full pursuit, nor will they slack their course thro' the day, unless he is taken. This exercise they pursue day after day, for months together. This diversion is attended by old men, as well as young—but chiefly by married people. I have seen old men, whose heads were white with age, as eager in the chase as a boy of 16. It is perfectly bewitching. The hounds indeed make delightful musick—when they happen to pass near fields, where horses are in pasture, upon hearing the hounds, they immediately begin to caper, Leap the fence and pursue the Chase—frequent instances have occurred, where in leaping the fence, or passing over gullies, or in the woods, the rider has been thrown from his horse, and his brains dashed out, or otherwise killed suddenly. This however never stops the chase—one or two are left to take care of the dead body, and the others pursue.
Avid fox hunter George Washington, who named his dogs Sweet Lips, Venus, & True Love, during the Revolutionary War, even returned a dear pet, a stray terrier, to the enemy - its owner, British General Howe, along with a note that read: "General Washington does himself the pleasure to return ...a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands."
Thomas Jefferson did not particularly share his fellow Virginian's attachment to dogs. In 1789, returning from his assignment as ambassador to France, he imported "shepherd's dogs" for Monticello & later presented Washington with puppies.
1755 John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). The Gore Children with Dog
In Williamsburg and its environs, the Virginia Gazette often carried advertisements for lost dogs. In 1751, Alexander Finnie, who ran the Raleigh Tavern, offered to pay "Half a Pistole" to anyone who returned his "spaniel BITCH, with white and brown spots." In 1752 Williamsburg, a pet dog Ball, a reddish spaniel was lost, and his owner James Spiers was willing to part with a dollar to get him back. In 1774, Glasgow, a brown-and-white bulldog with an iron collar, had gone missing and his owner offered 20 shillings for his return. In the same paper in 1777, a pet black Pomeranian called Spado was stolen and a $20 reward was offered.
In the only written connection between dogs and women that I have found yet---in 1775, Williamsburg's Virginia Gazette printed,
"On the Death of a Lady's Dog"
Thou, happy creature, art secure
From all the troubles we endure..
1730 John Smibert (1688-1751). Mrs Nathaniel Cunningham with Dog
C 1750 John Wollaston (1710-1775) Magdalen Charlton (Mrs. Thomas Dongan) with Dog
c 1760 Benjamin West (1738-1820). Anne Allen (later Mrs. John Penn) with Dog. John Penn (1729-1795) was the last governor of colonial Pennsylvania, serving from 1763-1771 & 1773-1776, & he was a grandson of William Penn. Portrait of the daughter of West's benefactor Chief Justice William Allen may have been painted as West was traveling from Pennsylvania to Italy and then to England.
1760 English artist James McArdell (1728-1965) after Joshua Reynolds Joshua Reynolds (English Rococo Era Painter, 1723-1792) The model for Copley's painting below.
1763 John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Mrs Jerathmael Bowers with Dog
1773 Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Christian Stelle Banister & Son John with Dog
1787 Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Hartley Family with Dog
1785-90 Beardsley Limner Possibly Sarah Bushnell Perkins (1771 - 1831). Elizabeth Davis (Mrs Hezekiah Beardsley) with Dog
1789 - 1791 Payne Limner. Martha Payne with Cat
By the dawn of the 19th century, there could be no doubt that dogs were an integral part of the American family.