Uncle Tom and Little Eva


Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe was published in 1852, quickly becoming the nation’s bestselling book. It features a spirited, religious-minded enslaved man named Tom, who is sold downriver by his financially-strapped owner in Kentucky to a plantation in Louisiana. There, his Christian beliefs spread hope to his fellow slaves and enable him to endure the harsh beatings of his cruel master. He is ultimately whipped to death after refusing to reveal the location of two runaway slaves. Published after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the novel targeted Northern audiences, arguing against the injustice of slavery and spurring the abolition movement into action. Although the bestselling novel of the 19th century, many American were exposed to Uncle Tom’s Cabin through play adaptations known as Tom shows. The immense popularity of both the novel and plays transformed Uncle Tom into a cultural phenomenon in America and Europe, and manufacturers quickly capitalized on the production of “Tomitudes,” everyday commodities that referenced scenes and characters from the novel. These included card games, jigsaw puzzles, chinaware, jars and vases, snuffboxes, ceramic figurines, and decorative prints. Although some of these Tomitudes employed racial stereotypes and the imagery of blackface minstrelsy, most chose to depict the enslaved characters of Beecher’s novel in a sympathetic light, often carrying an anti-slavery message.

The most popular depictions of Uncle Tom were those in which he was accompanied by the young white girl, Eva St. Clare. Representations of their companionship conveyed a message of racial bonding, and celebrated the characters’ shared Christian faith, though undoubtly grabbed the attention of Victorian audiences viewing a very young white girl alone in the company of a mature black man. This print around 1853 depicts Tom sitting with Eva, whom he had had previously saved from drowning when she fell off the deck of a riverboat on the Mississippi. In return for saving his daughter, Eva’s father had purchases the enslaved Tom, and he moves with the St. Clare family into their New Orleans home as a house slave. In this illustration, from Chapter 22 of the novel, Eva reads to Tom from her Bible. Eva sits on a rock under an arbor and supposedly first points to the Bible in her lap, and then as depicted, she points up to the sky. Tom follows her gesture upwards with his eyes. They are having a conversation about Heaven, foreshadowing the untimely death of the terminally ill girl. Although Tom had gained much responsibility in the St. Clare household, even handling the family’s finances, he is portrayed in this print wearing the outfit of a field hand. In the 1852 illustrated Jon P. Jewett and Company edition of the book, with engravings by Hammett Billings, Eva is in a similar position with her hand pointing to the sky, but in that black and white engraving Uncle Tom is demicted in fancier attire of a house slave.

The lithograph was created by firm of E.C. Kellogg & Company, established in 1850, by Elijah Chapman Kellogg (1811–1881), after the dissolution of Kelloggs & Comstock. The business operated until Elijah again partnered with his brother, Edmund Burke Kellogg (1809-1872), changing the company name back to E.B. & E.C. Kellogg. The work was co-published by Thayer & Company, a lithography firm operated by Horace Thayer, who was born in 1811, in Hartwick, New York. Between 1846 and 1847, he was a partner in Kelloggs & Thayer in New York City. The partnership dissolved in 1847 and Thayer moved to Buffalo, New York, and became a map publisher. In Buffalo, he was involved in a variety of partnerships, most of which co-published Kelloggs prints. By 1859, he returned to New York City, remaining there until 1864, when he moved back to upstate New York.

Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) rose to fame in 1851 with the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which highlighted the evils of slavery, angered the slaveholding South, and inspired pro-slavery copy-cat works in defense of the institution of slavery. Stowe’s father was the famed Congregational minister Lyman Beecher and her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, was also a famous preacher and reformer. In 1824, she attended her sister Catherine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary, which exposed young women to many of the same courses available in men’s academies. Stowe became a teacher, working from 1829 to 1832 at the Seminary.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote numerous articles, some of which were published in the renowned women’s magazine of the times, Godey’s Lady’s Book. She also wrote 30 books, covering a wide range of topics from homemaking to religion, as well as several novels. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which legally compelled Northerners to return runaway slaves, infuriated Stowe, and many in the North. She subsequently authored her most famous work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Originally serialized in the National Era, Stowe saw her tale as a call to arms for Northerners to defy the Fugitive Slave Act. It was released as a book in 1852 and later performed on stage and translated into dozens of languages. Stowe used her fame to petition to end slavery. She toured nationally and internationally, speaking about her book, and donating some of what she earned to help the antislavery cause.

Date Made: 1852-1856Date Made: 1852

Distributor: Horace Thayer & Co.Originator Of Scene: Stowe, Harriet BeecherMaker: E.C. Kellogg and Company

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Connecticut, Hartford

Depicted: ChildrenBlacksAfrican AmericanUncle TomLittle EvaReferenced: Civil WarSlaveryRelated Event: Civil War


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, American Civil War Prints, Art, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.60.2332Catalog Number: 60.2332Accession Number: 228146

Object Name: LithographObject Type: Lithograph

Physical Description: paper (overall material)ink (overall material)Measurements: image: 11 3/4 in x 8 1/2 in; 29.845 cm x 21.59 cmoverall: 14 in x 10 in; 35.56 cm x 25.4 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b4-ff52-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_324668

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