The Miscegenation Ball

Description
This hand-colored print depicts a fictionalized account of a Republican campaign event dance that occurred at the Lincoln Central Campaign Club in New York Sept. 22, 1864. The caption at the bottom of the work swears that the event is accurately portrayed in the above illustration, in which high level Republican leaders are shown vigorously dancing, conversing, and fraternizing with fashionably dressed black women. No white women are present in the scene and Lincoln supporters seated on the sides of the room are seen kissing and scandalously embracing black women. Northern Democrats opposed abolition by playing upon fears of widespread miscegenation, or racial mixing, that they argued would inevitably occur if Lincoln were re-elected to a second term. A campaign banner reading, “Universal Freedom / One Constitution / One Destiny / Abraham Lincoln Pre..st” hangs above the proceedings. This banner and portrait of Lincoln on the wall suggested to viewers that his re-election and racial mixing went hand-in-hand.
The series of prints critical of potential miscegenation were initially published in a New York daily newspaper, The World. The paper was established in 1860, was religiously orientated, and supported Lincoln’s policies. After losing money, however, it was sold to a group of New York City Democrats, who openly attacked Lincoln after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Known for printing falsified information and accounts, the paper was temporarily shut down in 1864 after publishing a report that Lincoln planned to draft 400,000 more men for the Union armies.
The print was the fourth, last, and largest in a series of anti-Lincoln prints by New York lithographers Kimmel & Forster, published by Bromley & Company. Christopher Kimmel was born in Germany around 1850 and after immigrating to the United States, was active in New York City from 1850 to 1876. He was part of Capewell & Kimmel from 1853 to 1860, and then partnered with Thomas Forster in 1865, forming the lithography firm of Kimmel & Forster, which was active until 1871. Although this print offers a harsh criticism of Lincoln, it was most likely produced as a commission, since the firm produced several prints celebrating the President after his death.
The signature in the lower right corner of the illustration reveals that this scene was imagined by the artist Henry Atwell Thomas (1834-1904), who specialized in lithography of the American theatre, which accounts for the work’s dramatic imagery. In the lower left corner, the print includes an advertisement for publisher, copyright holder, and distributer, G.W. Bromley & Co.. Black and white copies were sold through the mail for 25 cents and hand colored copies cost 34 cents. Copies could be purchased at discount prices if purchasing multiples of 5, 50, or 100.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1864
copyright holder; distributor
Bromley & Co.
maker
Kimmel and Forster
artist
Thomas, Henry Atwell
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
Measurements
image: 12 5/8 in x 20 1/2 in; 32.0675 cm x 52.07 cm
ID Number
DL.60.3341
catalog number
60.3341
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
subject
African American
Courtship, love
Political Parties
Chronology: 1860-1869
Adornment
Glasses
Dancing
Music
Political Caricatures
U.S. National Government, executive branch
Communication, newspapers
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
Civil War
related event
Civil War
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Clothing & Accessories
Domestic Furnishings
Art
Data Source
National Museum of American History

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