Perilous Escape of Eliza and Child

Perilous Escape of Eliza and Child

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Description
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 slave 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.
In the novel, Tom’s owner in Kentucky, Arthur Shelby decides to sell two of his slaves, Tom and the child Harry, the young son of another slave named Eliza. In order to keep her son, Eliza determines to escape into the North across the Ohio River. Depicting Eliza’s dramatic flight from Chapter 7 of the novel, this print around 1853 presents the slave woman crossing the River in the winter, desperately leaping across ice floes, her son clutched in her arms. As Eliza steps forward, she turns her head back in the direction of Mr. Shelby, who has pursued her to the river’s bank. After her escape, Eliza is joined by her husband George, who is also on the run, and with the aid of sympathetic Northern Quakers, the trio escapes into Canada.
Thomas W. Strong was a New York-based printer and wood engraver who began his career around 1840. His shop specialized in comic literature and he employed many talented cartoonists and draftsmen who would go on to work for Harper’s Weekly and Vanity Fair. This print was the first in a series by Strong of scenes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
Lithograph
Object Type
Lithograph
date made
ca 1853
maker
Strong, Thomas W.
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
Measurements
image: 12 in x 9 in; 30.48 cm x 22.86 cm
overall: 16 in x 11 in; 40.64 cm x 27.94 cm
ID Number
DL.60.2373
catalog number
60.2373
accession number
228146
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
subject
Reform Movements
Children
Blacks
African American
Civil War
Slavery
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
Art
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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