This image is a political cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast. It is titled “The Chinese Question.” The cartoon features Lady America protecting a Chinese immigrant from a mob. Behind the crowd is a burning building labeled “Colored Orphan Asylum” and a tree with a noose hanging from it. The protesters are carrying signs labeled “Our Rights” “We rule” and “If Our Ballot Will Not Stop Them Coming To Our [unclear] the Bullet”. Behind Lady America there are newspaper clippings that insult Chinese immigrants, such as “John Chinaman is an Idolater Heathen” The cartoon is captioned “Hands off, Gentlemen! America means fair play for all men.” This cartoon was run in Harper’s Weekly on February 18th, 1871. It accompanied an article about attempts to limit Chinese immigration in New York by state senator William Tweed.

During the second half of the 19th century, there was widespread concern over the influx of Chinese immigrants into America. The first wave were hired laborers known as “Coolies” that had come to America from Latin America. The term “Coolie” began to apply to all Chinese immigrants, even those who freely traveled to America under the Burlingame Treaty of 1868. Due to racism and economic competition, there was a fear that Chinese immigrants were going to overrun America.

The cartoon can be found on the Harper’s Weekly website as part of their Cartoon of the Day feature to highlight cartoons from the magazine’s history. The image was created through woodblock printing, in which the image was carved onto a block of wood, inked, and stamped onto the paper.

The editors at Harper’s Weekly believed that Chinese immigration was not harmful to American society. In the article that accompanied this cartoon, the author said that there was no such thing as a “Chinese Invasion.” The purpose of this illustration would be to assure Americans that all immigrants are welcome. By having Lady America deliver this message, it is an explicit reminder of what America is supposed to stand for. Nast drew the American rioters as looking very monstrous; their features are either hard to make out or look almost like skulls. By drawing the rioters this way, Nast was continuing the physical stereotype of the Irish immigrant, as seen in his cartoon about Irish rioters from 1867. As a German immigrant, Nast would not only have been sensitive to the problems faced by immigrants, but would also have discriminated against Irish immigrants. It is unlikely that the only group to protest Chinese immigration would be the Irish; however, by using the stereotypical Irish features and emotional elements such as a burning orphanage, Nast was putting the focus on Irish immigrants. The cartoon could also have reminded readers that many Americans are descended from immigrants and should thus not judge the Chinese immigrants harshly.

John Roger’s Slave Auction

March 20th, 2009

John Rogers was an American sculptor who made very popular figurines in the latter 19th century. He became popular for his small sculptures, popularly named “Rogers Groups,” which were massed produced in cast plaster. Between 1860 and 1893 Rogers had produced around 85 different patented groups of statues. During that period some twenty five workman in a New York factory made plastered copies of the statues. A total of 80,000 to 100,000 copies of almost 80 Roger Groups were sold across the United States and other countries. Often selling at fifteen dollars a piece, the figurines were affordable to the middle class because he didn’t use bronze or marble. He was inspired by novels, poems, prints, and scenes he saw around him. In the late 19th century if you didn’t have a Roger’s statue then you were not conforming to the times. Abraham Lincoln and Lieutenant Custer even owned a Roger’s statue. The Slave Auction sculpture was made out of painted plaster in 1859. It is now owned by the New York Historical Society. The sculpture shows an African American man and an African American woman with her children being auctioned off as property to potential owners. The woman seems to be desperately holding on to her children for the fear that they might become separated which was common among the selling of slaves. Salves being sold at auction were a common sight to see in the 19th century so it is no surprise that Rogers made this sculpture.  

McKinley visits Tuskegee

March 20th, 2009

This picture shows a crowd of students, and faculty awaiting the arrival of President William McKinley, Governor Johnston of Alabama, Colonel Foster and Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute. The picture was taken when the President visited the school on December 16, 1898 during a tour of the south after previously visiting Atlanta, Georgia. The photo was included within the first autobiographical volume of the Booker T. Washington Papers.

The anticipation of the President’s visit illustrated the philosophy behind the founding of the Tuskegee Institute. The speech, as recorded by the New York Times, McKinley then delivered illustrated the enduring legacy of the Institute’s history. The course of education offered at the institute was designed to assist former slaves and their children with their integration into freedom as self reliant contributors to industry and society. McKinley noted the “surprising” progress the Institute had made in sowing the “seeds of good citizenship”. By equipping the young students with “Intelligence and industry” they could expect to avoid “the police court or before the Grand Jury or in the work house or the chain gang.” His appraisal of the Tuskegee Institute defines the terms on which it persevered, as a “unique educational experiment” that “exalted the race for which it was established.”

As it was pioneered by Booker T. Washington the Tuskegee Institute exemplified efforts to make black education a means of stimulating black participation in industry. The political brokering that brought Tuskegee into existence was an exercise in education designed to ensure self reliance for ex slaves across the south. Still this movement was viewed as a experiment as formal education had been completely denied to slaves prior to the civil war and even throughout Reconstruction. McKinley’s decision to visit the campus in 1898 was an earmark of their success. Industrial productivity meant jobs for the black workers who were trained at Tuskegee, and profitable employees for the entrepreneurs who employed them. Before the President spoke the Times article mentions the parade of floats representing each of the different departments at the school “by way of contrast, one representing the old way of doing things, the other the new way.”


March 20th, 2009

This object is an instrument used by the Sioux in the Great Plains Area. This instrument is called a Chegah-Skah-Hdah, otherwise known as a rattle. Music was very important for Indians in the Great Plains. Music was used for dancing and celebration. This instrument also symbolizes the Indians relationships with the white men. The metal that is used for this instrument was obtained by trading with the white men.

The maker of this instrument is unknown. It was probably used by male Indians in the Great Plains. This instrument was made during the 19th century in the Great Plains region.

The rattle is made of wood, metal, and leather. The handle of the rattle is made out of wood. The metal is used to create sound. The leather connects the metal to the wooden handle. These metal “bells” are also found on dresses of women. Women usually wore these dresses while they were dancing.

This object is currently housed in The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments in the Metropolitian Museum of Art. The Crosby Brown Collection is a collection of 266 instruments given to the museum in 1889 by Mrs. John Crosby Brown.

The Day We Celebrate

March 20th, 2009

This is a political cartoon by Thomas Nast that was published in an 1867 edition of Harper’s Weekly magazine. The carton depicts a violent brawl between what are supposed to be Irishmen and police officers. Nast drew the Irish people as monkey-like to express his opinion that the Irish were like animals. It also shows that the Irish are the ones committing most of the violence against the helpless police officers. The drawing is supposed to be taking place on St. Patrick’s Day 1867, as it says at the top. On the bottom it reads, “THE DAY WE CELEBRATE” as well as the words “RUM” and “BLOOD”. By the looks on their faces and their body language, the Irish look vicious and ruthless, while the police officers, especially the ones being trampled, look helpless. They are obviously supposed to be drunk, because that was, and still is, a major stereotype of the Irish.

Nast was an influential political cartoonist who often showed his blatant prejudice for the Irish immigrant community. His work with the popular Harper’s Weekly got his opinions out to many American readers. It is possible that this cartoon, among others, helped to spread Irish prejudice among the public. 


March 20th, 2009

“This Card Photograph should be multiplied by 100,000, and scattered over the States. It tells the story in a way that even Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe [author of the 1852 book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin] can not approach, because it tells the story to the eye,” according to a writer for the New York Independent.

The photograph shows the brutal and permanent scars of slavery.  Runaway slave Gordon’s exposed back is photographed, revealing horrific welts from physical abuse.  Photographers, William D. McPherson and his partner Mr. Oliver from the Mathew Brady studio capture this powerful image in 1863.

Months after the vicious attack, Gordon escaped.   Ten days and eighty miles later, he arrived at the Union Camp in Baton Rouge and enlisted in the Army.  During his medical examination, the doctors saw the scarring.  The photographers were at the camp and took the photos to brand a visual image in viewers’ minds, as the violence of slavery had branded Private Gordon. 

This photograph took on a life of its own, being mass-produced and circulated widely throughout America and in London.  This photograph along with two others turned Private Gordon into an African American icon of bravery and patriotism.  Further, his story encouraged others to follow his brave example and enlist in the Union Army.  The photograph is currently stored in the National Portrait Gallery.

This photograph was taken in the William Notman Studios in Montreal, Quebec during Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, in August 1885. D.F. Barry later copyrighted it in June 1897. In the collection of D.F. Barry most of pictures are of Sitting Bull and his family. The photograph is located in the Library of Congress Prints and photographs division in Washington D.C.

To the right of the photograph is William Frederick Cody better known as Buffalo Bill. The picture was taken during the tour of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He is dressed in full cowboy regalia. He appears to be looking of into the distance.

On the right is Sitting Bull of the Lakota. He is dressed in full Lakota garb. This picture was taken during his four-month stint on Buffalo Bill’s show. During which he was paid 50 dollars a week to ride around the arena, and any money he received from autographs. He supposedly made a considerable amount of money charging for autographs.

This picture represents a stereotypical view of cowboys and Indians that has become so much a part of American culture. Mainly in the dress of both the cowboys and Indians which has been represented in plays and films ever since.

There is a lot of irony within the picture itself. Buffalo Bill made famous as a bison hunter, which lead to the destruction of the Lakota food source. Also it was portraying this great war chief as a part of circus like show. There are varying reports on why he did the show. Some say he cursed the people in audience in his native tongue. Other reports say he used this to encourage relations between whites and native Americans.

This photograph the beginning of the archetype of cowboys and Indians in the united states.

Lacrosse, an Indian Game

March 19th, 2009

George Catlin went West to paint what he thought were an endangered people, and rescue their primitive ways and looks from destruction. Pictured here in this Catlin painting is the image of 3 Native American Lacrosse players. Lacrosse was a Native American stick and ball game that was a team sport for males to play, it was first discovered, or come into contact with, by European explorers in the 1600’s. According to the National Lacrosse Museum suggests that there were many different forms of the game played by many different native groups. The primitive ball game now associated with Lacrosse, originated in the eastern part of America and the Great Lakes region, it was essential in keeping the Iroquois nations together, from what I have found, it is unclear as to whether or not the Plains Indians of the western territories were taught the game or if it was their own, similar, sport.

The image is important to race because it portrays a racially charged topic in Catlin’s work and portrays a sport that was primarily played and implemented in native American culture. Catlin’s trips out west, as chronicled in Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of North American Indians Volume 2. There were 2 volumes of his studies, the 2nd of which details the Plains Indians and their culture. His study was published in 1841.

Ball Players, the above painting, does not have a date given as to when it was painted, but given Catlin’ dates, he was born in 1796 and died in 1872, it was clearly painted in the 19th century on one of his trips out west to chronicle the Indian way of life and put together an Indian Gallery in an effort to protect the Indian way of life. Given this knowledge of what Catlin was attempting to do it is clear what the significance of this painting is to people of the 19th century and beyond, as with all of Catlin’s work, it embodied the spirit of the Native people of America and showed them in a whole new light and made an effort to portray them in a more positive, noble way. The significance of this image in particular is that it shows Lacrosse, a native sport, that gives another element to the people. Lacrosse was something that was truly theirs, and it could not be taken away from them, sure the white man adopted the sport as its own, and since it has become a very white sport, dominated by white players throughout it’s levels, but in its original form, it was a pure expression of native passion and athleticism. According to the Smithsonian Art Museum where it is housed, it is a hand-colored piece on lithograph paper, as far as I know the image is a photo or scanned copy of the original. Pictured below is an original lacrosse stick and a modern lacrosse stick to illustrate how far the once Native American only game has come.


The Sweet Sunny South

March 19th, 2009





Take me back to the place where I first saw the light
To the sweet sunny south take me home
Where the mockingbirds sing me to rest every night
Oh, why was I tempted to roam?

I think with regret of the dear home I left
Of the warm hearts that sheltered me there
Of wife and of dear ones of whom I’m bereft
For the old place again do I sigh

Take me back to the place where the orange trees grow
To my plot in the evergreen shade
Where the flowers from the river’s green margins did grow 
And spread their sweet scent through the glade

Oh the path to our cottage they say has grown green 
And the place is quite lonely around
I know that the smiles and the forms I have seen
Now lie in the dark mossy ground

Take me back, let me see what is left that I knew
Can it be that the old house is gone?
Dear friends of my childhood indeed must be few
And I must face death all alone

But yet I’ll return to the place of my birth
Where the children have played round the door
Where they gathered wild blossoms that grow round the path
They’ll echo our footsteps no more

Take me back to the place where my little ones sleep
Poor Massa lies buried close by
By the graves of my loved ones, I long for to weep
And among them to rest when I die

Take me back to the place where I first saw the light
To the sweet sunny south take me home
Where the mockingbirds sing me to rest every night
Oh, why was I tempted to roam?

            This song is titled “The Sweet Sunny South”.  This song dates back to sometime in the 19th century.  There is no evidence of exactly where or when this song was first played.  According to Chalres Wolfe some sheet music indicates that it could have been written in the  1840’s (Wolfe 24).  If that is the case, there is a good chance is was written for a minstrel show, which was very popular at that time.  It is mostly thought of as a traditional song though there are different early copyrights on it.  John C. Schreiner and Raymond are two names that have copyright claims (Wolfe 24).

According to Paul Cohen this song is sung from the viewpoint of a slave, though that is not apparent from the lyrics (Cohen 7).  When looking at the lyrics from the viewpoint of a slave, this song is very similar to may other minstrel songs at the time, which would justify slavery by portraying slaves who were happy with their situation. 

            During the folk revival of the 1950’s and 1960’s this song began to regain it’s popularity.  The lyrics were interpreted as a song about Southern pride despite the few lines that mention death.  This  version of the song The Sweet Sunny South was sung by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman in 1991. 


Works Cited

Cohen, Paul. “Shady Grove”  San Rafael: Acoustic Disc, 1996


Wolfe, Charles.  ”Masters Of Old-Time Country Autoharp” Washington: Smithsonian Folkways, 2006


Crazy Horse

March 19th, 2009

  This photoprint is of an illustration from Frank Leslie’s Newspaper, October 12, 1877.  It is a depiction of Chief Crazy Horse’s funeral procession passing through camp Sheridan on the way to the grave on September 5, 1877. He had been stabbed by one of  the reservation officers when he resisted arrest; his hands were bound behind his back. In an excerpt from “American Indian Biographies” it is  reported that Crazy Horse’s parents alone took his body into the hills and buried him in a place only known to them.  However, other accounts claim that he is buried near Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  This print shows an extensive funeral procession and seems to be made up of women. However, the Library of Congress website describes the figures in the print as both men and women. 

Crazy Horse was an Native American icon.  His charismatic leadership yielded him many followers.  He refused to sign treaties and remained on his land to protect it even after other tribes had relocated on reservations or fled to Canada.  He eventually surrendered to General Crook in Nebraska and went to live at the Red Cloud Agency.  Rumors that he was going to escape forced his arrest and subsequent death.

Leslie has chosen to depict the funeral of Crazy Horse with messianic overtones.  Though it may have been the custom, his body is wrapped and the presence of female characters surrounding the body resembles the crucifixion of Christ leading up to the events at the tomb. Over time, it has been revealed that Native American spirituality has been strongly influenced by Christianity.

Frank Leslie was born Henry Carter in Ispwich, England. He was an illustrator and moved to the U. S. in 1848.  He is famous for his illustrations of the Civil War as well as several Native American prints.  On the back of this print “Indians-Dakota Biography-Crazy Horse Funeral” is written. Repository: Western History/Genealogy Depart, Denver Public Library, 10 W. 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO 80204


 Library of Congress. “Indians-Dakota-Biography-Crazy Horse Funeral.” (accessed March 17, 2009).

Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Vol. 3. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1997.

Markowitz, Harvey, and Barrett Carole, eds. American Indian Biographies. Pasadena: Salem Press, 2005.

Frank Leslie Civil War Illustrations. (accessed March 15, 2009).