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.  

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