Sunday, January 19, 2020

1798 Portrait of an American Family

1798 John Ritto Penniman (American painter, 1782–1841) Family Group

Family portraits are rare in the early 18C British American colonies, perhaps because they were expensive & usually so large, that they required a sizable public parlor for display. Most 18C colonial American houses were not spacious. Family portraits are also much more complicated for the artist, and there were few artists available in colonial America early in the 18C. But the incidence of family portraits grew, as the number of painters & spaces in homes also grew.

Some gentlemen had family portraits painted as a sign of wealth & as a factor in gaining respect & power in the new world. The painting announced that they were important, entitled to be the natural leader in the new society. Other family paintings commemorated a specific event. Most were not painted to be tucked away for private family contemplation, but to act as a public icon or an emblematic memory for an audience larger than the immediate family. The composition of family paintings was changing throughout the 18C as well.

The concept of family was evolving as emerging Enlightenment ideas began to impact everyday domestic life & family values in colonial America. Slowly throughout the century, the strict patriarchal family concept was beginning to change. English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) implied that women should have greater authority in the family & the home. In portraits, artists began to display the woman on nearly the same level as the husband.

Artists began to feel that they could portray married couples as congenial companions. Painters began to portray men participating more in the rearing of their children, they were no longer just expected to be distant strict disciplinarians. Americans were beginning to believe that children needed to be loved & to play. The individual was also becoming more important in 18th-century America. Artists often used props to signify something about the talents, skills, & identities of individuals within these families. In one way or another, each of the following portraits reflects changing patriarchal values, gender relations, attitudes towards women & children, and the growing democratization of American society. But women did not receive the right to vote in the United States until 1920.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Runaway House Slaves



Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser (Goddard), Baltimore, June 27, 1780.
NEGROES, who ran away...Lucy, Hannah, and Nan...They are most of them very artful, and expect to pass as free people...Lucy's business has been to wash and iron. Young Hannah and Nan are exceeding good flax spinners. They are all mostly cloathed in Virginia cloth...They have stole some guns, and many different sorts of clothes, and I expect they will change their names.

Virginia Gazette (Clarkson & Davis), Richmond, August 19, 1780.
RUN away...a young mulatto wench named Sukey. Her dress when she went away was white Virginia cloth, a linen bonnet made in the fashion; she has a large bushy head of hair, her upper fore teeth much decayed, and some of them out, which causes her to lisp, shows her teeth when laughing, and is very brazen and impertinent. She can wash, iron, and cook.

Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (Davis), Richmond, January 26, 1791.
RAN-AWAY...a large fat likely negro woman, known by the name of SARAH, but looks young to her age, which is between 40 or 50, of a bold insinuating countenance, artful and cunning to the highest degree...She is an excellent house servant, as to spinning cotton of flax, sewing, knitting, cooking, washing, or any thing else a wench can do, and can work very well in the crop--She is fond of making and selling ginger bread, &c. ...Her clothing when she went away was a large scarlet frize cloak, a hat dress with white ribbon and buckle, one callico jackcoat, one suit of green durants, sundry suits of strip'd and white Virginia cloth, and wore two silver rings on her fingers.

Virginia Herald and Fredericksburg Advertiser (Green), Fredericksburg, November 14, 1793.
RAN AWAY...in Orange county, the last of September, NEGRO MOLLY, a lusty likely woman, about 41 or 42 years of age, rather dark complexion; she is a healthy, neat, industrious wench, a good cook, washer and ironer, and is well acquainted with house business

American Gazette and Norfolk and Portsmouth Public Advertiser
(Davis), Norfolk, September 15, 1795.
RUN AWAY this morning, a negro Woman named MOLLY, But has of late gone by the name of BETTY...She is very black, has a bushy head, and remarkable white teeth, is about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, and supposed to be about 36 years of age; is a very good washer and ironer, and am informed a good cook, and is well acquainted with all kind of house business.

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, August 2, 1800.
Negro Woman named PATTY...about 28 years of age, thick, well set, and about 5 feet 5 inches high. She has short curled hair, and prominent features, particularly eyes, noes, and mouth. Her teeth are bad and yellow, and the whites of her eyes are much affected by smoke. On her shoulders are two scars visible when she does not wear a handkerchief; and her right arm shews the marks of very frequent bleeding. Her voice is rather shrill; she is very talkative and disposed to be impertinent; but when it suits her purpose can assume every appearance of perfect humility. I expect she is in Norfolk, in company with a sister who bears a very striking resemblance...Patty is a good cook and washer, and probably will practice one or the other for a livelihood.

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, March 12, 1801.
Run-a-way...Negro SAREY...well known in Norfolk as a negro hiring herself out to day's work at washing

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, July 6, 1802
Ran Away...a tall, spare black woman named POLLY, about 20 years old, formerly the property of Major Roger West: she has been brought up to house-work, is a good cook, washer and nurse.

Friday, January 17, 2020

1798 Portrait of an American Family

1798 Ralph Earl (American artist, 1751-1801). Mrs. Noah Smith and Her Children.

Family portraits are rare in the early 18C British American colonies, perhaps because they were expensive & usually so large, that they required a sizable public parlor for display. Most 18C colonial American houses were not spacious. Family portraits are also much more complicated for the artist, and there were few artists available in colonial America early in the 18C. But the incidence of family portraits grew, as the number of painters & spaces in homes also grew.

Some gentlemen had family portraits painted as a sign of wealth & as a factor in gaining respect & power in the new world. The painting announced that they were important, entitled to be the natural leader in the new society. Other family paintings commemorated a specific event. Most were not painted to be tucked away for private family contemplation, but to act as a public icon or an emblematic memory for an audience larger than the immediate family. The composition of family paintings was changing throughout the 18C as well.

The concept of family was evolving as emerging Enlightenment ideas began to impact everyday domestic life & family values in colonial America. Slowly throughout the century, the strict patriarchal family concept was beginning to change. English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) implied that women should have greater authority in the family & the home. In portraits, artists began to display the woman on nearly the same level as the husband.

Artists began to feel that they could portray married couples as congenial companions. Painters began to portray men participating more in the rearing of their children, they were no longer just expected to be distant strict disciplinarians. Americans were beginning to believe that children needed to be loved & to play. The individual was also becoming more important in 18th-century America. Artists often used props to signify something about the talents, skills, & identities of individuals within these families. In one way or another, each of the following portraits reflects changing patriarchal values, gender relations, attitudes towards women & children, and the growing democratization of American society. But women did not receive the right to vote in the United States until 1920.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Newspaper - Runaway Female Slaves Who Could Read & Write



Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser (Richards), Alexandria, September 29, 1785.
RAN AWAY...a MULATTO WOMAN, named MOLLY; of a middle size. She took with her two Virginia cloth jackets and petticoats, one brown and one green baize ditto, with sundry other things.---As she can read, and is handy at her needle, it is probable she will endeavour to pass for a free woman.

Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (Davis), Richmond, August 24, 1791.
The following NEGROES...A MULATTO WOMAN went off with the above, who has since been been taken up at Norfolk, and as she can write, she probably has furnished the others with passes, changing thier name.

The Herald and Norfolk and Portsmouth Advertiser (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, November 9, 1795.
RUN AWAY...A likely mulatto woman named SILLAR, about the common stature, 25 years of age, and walks generally very brisk; she has been brought up a House Servant and can read a Letter...it is expected as she carried off her bed, bedding, and a number of good clothes, that she as been coaxed away by some free Negro or other, who has conveyed her off by water and intends to pass her as a free woman

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, September 14, 1797.
Run away Negroes...JACK, a Carpenter by trade, about 40 years of age, 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, of a dark complexion. PHEBE, his wife, and his daughter BETSEY, about 16 years of age, a very likely wench; also Two of the said Phebe's Children, one of which is 5 or 6 years and the other 6 months old. It is suspected Jack's wife will forge passes as she is very artful and can write...A Negro Fellow named Joe, son to the above Jack, about 20 years of age, plays on the Violin.

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, October 2, 1800.
Negro Girl named NANCY, about 19 years of age, about 4 feet 4 inches, good stout looking girl; her complexion paler than general; had on when she went away a black new fashioned paste-board bonnet, trimmed with black ribbon, a blue handkerchief on her neck, dark callico short gown, purple worsted petticoat, she had a sifter in which she had cakes to sell about town...She has changed her name to BETSEY. Speaks very good Dutch, can read and write, and may forge herself a passport.

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor),Norfolk, October 29, 1801.
Forty Dollars Reward. RAN-AWAY from the subscriber, living in Petersburg, Virginia, in the afternoon of Thursday, the 22d inst. a likely spare made Negro Woman, named LUCINDA, (but sometimes she is called Lucinda Walker, and at other times Lucinda Brown) about 24 years of age, she is of the common height, and rather black: she has a remarkable pleasant countenance, smooth insinuating manners, and speaks very correct and distinct--she had previously sent off the most of her clothes in a trunk, (supposed marked at the bottom W.D. or W.I.D.) of which she has a variety of good materials and well made. I am informed she had made up just before her elopemont, a habit and coat of dark blue cloth in the fashion; and it is likely she will travel in that dress--she can both read and write a little: I am pretty certain that she has been enticed off by some bad designing man, probably white, and that she has through them procured free papers, or a pass of some kind which she will make use of. She was born and brought up in the family indulgently...expressing a desire to go to Europe.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Newspaper - 1777 Deserter from the Revolution Runs Away with his Pregnant Wife


DESERTED from the 2d Virginia Regiment in New Jersey, the following ...Serjeant, 30 Years of Age...his Wife, who was heavy with Child, went off with him...the Serjeant...enlisted into Captain Alexander's Company, and may be taken in Frederick County, Virginia. ALEXANDER SPOTSWOOD, Col. 2d Virg. Reg.

Virginia Gazette(Dixon & Hunter), Williamsburg , September 5, 1777