Thomas Nast Drawings

April 2nd, 2009




These are two drawings by Thomas Nast that were published in the August 5, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly.  Unlike some of Nast’s other drawings, these did not appear with a related article.  

The first image depicts lady liberty sitting above many people who seem to be asking her for forgiveness.  All of the people asking for forgiveness are white men, and many of them were important leaders in the Confederacy, such as Robert E. Lee.  The text at the bottom indicates that Lady Liberty wants to know if she can trust these men.  

The second picture depicts an African-American who has lost a large portion his right leg.  Lady Liberty is standing right beside him with her hand upon his soldier.  The setting is very similar to the first image, except Lady Liberty is standing and no one is below her.  She is asking why she cannot trust this man as opposed to the other men in the previous image.  

The image brings up the question of what should be done with the newly freed slaves and the ex-Confederates.  Thomas Nast was a strong Lincoln supporter and an opponent to slavery.  Unlike many of the pro-slavery cartoons of the time, the African-American is drawn very similarly to the Lady Liberty, without many of the ape-like characteristics that were popular at the time.    In this drawing, Nast depicts the African-American as a hero who deserves to be recognized as such.  He clearly as much more respect for the African-Americans who fought for the Union that any American that fought for the Confederacy and believes that the U.S. policy should reflect that.  

Butler Medal

April 2nd, 2009

On October 11, 1864, General Benjamin Butler announced the commission of a medal he wished to award to the African American soldiers deemed to have exhibited exceptional courage while serving under his command during fighting at Ft. Harrison and Ft. Gilmer during the Battle of Chaffin’s Heights in Henrico County, VA a few weeks prior. Butler had intended to use his troops, both white and black, to gain access to the city of Richmond. This is also the battle in which fourteen African American soldiers received the official Medal of Honor. Anthony C. Paquet designed what would come to be known as both the Butler Medal and The Army of the James Medal, and Tiffany’s of New York manufactured the awards before their presentation. The silver medals read “Ferro lis Libertas Perveniet” on the front, which translates to “Liberty Came to them by the Sword.” The reverse bears the phrase “Distinguished Courage Campaign Before Richmond, 1864.”

The Butler Medals became the first and only US military awards created specifically for African American soldiers, though the government has never recognized it as an official military honor. Around two hundred men received the award, and General Butler made it a point to present as many as possible in person. But because the army never recognized the award, the names and origins of all but about twenty-one of the recipients have been lost to history. It is therefore unknown whether these men were free blacks or escaped slaves. What is known, sadly, is that at war’s end the government forbid the recipients’ wearing of their medals with their uniforms. Today one of the medals is owned by the National Museum of American History. A request for clarification as to how the medal ended up in the museum went unanswered by the staff.

Congress officially permitted the employment of black soldiers with the passage of the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862. It is interesting that General Butler, nicknamed “The Beast,” would be the one to initiate the medal in honor of African American soldiers as he originally opposed the use of black soldiers in the war. His skepticism faded somewhat in the battle for New Orleans when he declared that a desperate need for reinforcements could persuade him to “call upon Africa to interfere and I do not think I shall call in vain.” After capturing the city of New Orleans, Butler helped to bring the formerly Confederate African American unit known as the Louisiana Native Guard under Union leadership. These 3,000 soldiers became some of the first black troops in the Union. Butler also coined the term contraband to describe escaped slaves who joined Union lines.

Butler’s thoughts on the medal in his own words:
“I had the fullest reports made to me of the acts of individual bravery of colored men on that occasion, and I had done for the negro soldiers, by my own order, what the government has never done for its white soldiers – I had a medal struck of like size, weight, quality, fabrication, and intrinsic value with those which Queen Victoria gave with her own hand to her distinguished private soldiers of the Crimea…These I gave with my own hand, save where the recipient was in a distant hospital wounded, and by the commander of the colored corps after it was removed from my command, and I record with pride that in that single action there were so many deserving that it called for a presentation of nearly two hundred.”


See Our Torn Flag Still Waving was written shortly after the Kensington, Pennsylvania Massacre of 1844. The bloody riot specifically targeted Irish Catholics and involved mostly Irish immigrants in opposition to American Nativists.The author is unknown by name and simply annotated as “A Native.” The piece was composed and arranged by James W. Porter and dedicated “respectfully to the American Republicans of the United States.The torn American Flag became the symbol of American Nativism and used by the American Republican party in its fight for immigration restriction.  An article in the Republic, a Nativists magazine, sites Irish carters for disturbing a meeting of the American Republicans and starting the riot.  The Catholic Herald presented a different perpsective. The May 9th article reported the meeting was assembled in order to discuss the disturbance from a prior meeting held by the Irish population. The riots were broken up by police and reconvened on May 3 and 6. Participation in the Kensington Riots involved several Irish fire departments.  Military intervention became necessary to bring an end to the violence on May 7th. The torn American flag was meant to symbolize the tearing apart of America by the influx of immigrants.

This piece of sheet music is part of the Lester S. Levy Collection at Johns Hopkins University.  Levy was an American born Jewish philanthropist from Baltimore, Maryland.  He assembled the collection of sheet music over a 55 year period. The uniqueness of the collection is reflected, not in the music itself but, in what each piece historically represents; celebrations, disasters, wars, as well as movements like abolition  and women’s sufferage.  Levy later concentrated on the illustrations from the covers of the sheet music as a separate historical representation.


Library of Congress. (accessed April 1, 2009)

Johns Hopkins University. Levy Sheet Music Collection (accessed April 19, 2009)

Patrick, Francis. “Riot.” (Philadelphia) Catholic Herald, May 9, 1844. (accessed April 19, 2009)

“Kensington Massacre.” The Republic, A Magazine for the Defence of Civil and Religious Liberty, No. 1 August 1845. (accessed April 19, 2009)

Slave Market

April 2nd, 2009

This is a painting done by an unknown American artist. The actual date this was painted is unknown, but it was created right before the Civil War, sometime between the years of 1850 and 1860. There is a steam boat in the background, meaning that this possibly depicts a scene in Mississippi. This is an oil painting that was done on canvas. The size of this painting is H: 29 3/4 x W: 39 1/2. The official name of this painting is Slave Market. No one knows who painted this picture, which is strange since artists usually sign their name.

This painting has a lot of meaning behind it. First, it shows the importance of the slave market in 19th century America. Secondly, it shows how controversially slavery was, eventually leading to the eruption of the Civil War. This painting shows that the artist is anti-slavery. This can be concluded because the painting shows the cruelty of the slave market. In this painting you can see the grief of the slaves that are being seperated from their families. Behind the woman slave, you can see the master whipping her as her child is laying on the pavement. Behind the male slave, the master is pulling at his hair and arm. While all this commotion is going on, the white people in the background are just simply watching and conversing with each other. This painting depicts the cruelty of slavery and it shows why slavery should be abolished. The woman in the pink dress could possibly be a mulatto, which signifies the sexual relationships between whites and blacks during the 19th Century.

This painting is currently housed in Gallery 3 in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. This painting was given to the museum by Mrs. W. Fitch Ingersoll.

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.  


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. 

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.