Learning Is Wealth

April 2nd, 2009

This is a photograph called “Learning is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa. Slaves from New Orleans”. It was taken by Charles Paxon in 1864. It depicts an African-American man reading to three children. According to the caption, the children are slaves. This leads us to believe that they are the product of mixed race relationships, because they look very white. This photo was spread around in the North to gain sympathy for emancipated slave children who were lacking an education. The fact that the photo is of children that look white could possibly be so that other whites could better relate and have sympathy for slave kids in need of an education.  Paxon had noted that “The nett proceeds from the sale of these Photographs will be devoted to the education of Colored people in the department of the Gulf, now under the command of Maj. Gen’l. Banks.” Paxon was obviously using this photo for the agenda of gaining help for slave children.

The photograph is a Carte-de-viste, printed on Albumen print. This was one of the most popular way to print photographs at this time, invented in 1850. They were small cards printed on paper that was cheap and easy to make. This method was used commercially, because it was cheap and the cards could be spread around easily.

The Day We Celebrate

March 19th, 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. 

Levi Strauss

February 27th, 2009

Levi Strauss and Co. factory, 1882.

Levi Strauss was a German-Jewish immigrant who, in 1853, founded Levi Strauss and Company, the first manufacturer of blue jeans. This picture of his workers was taken outside of his California factory in 1882. Strauss originally moved to San Francisco during the gold rush, where he imported and sold dry goods to miners and settlers in San Francisco.

From spending much time around miners, he eventually learned that their cotton pants were breaking easily. Jacob Davis, a tailor, came to Strauss with an idea to strengthen pants by producing them with copper rivets. Davis needed money to get this project started, and since Strauss and already become somewhat successful in the business of dry goods, he decided to help out Davis, and go into business with him. The product they created were called jeans and they have been extremely popular ever since.

         In addition to finding fortune, Strauss remained connected to his Jewish roots. He helped to found the congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, and remained an active member of the Jewish community. He always used his wealth to enrich Jewish life. He actively contributed to such groups as the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home and the Hebrew Board of Relief. Strauss’s family, who inherited the company after his death, continued to do so as well. Levi Strauss is seen as a hero in the Jewish community for his achievements in entrepreneurship and philanthropy. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

January 31st, 2009

         This object is a First Edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1853. Being the best selling novel (and best selling book, behind the Bible) of the 19th Century, it was very influential and meaningful to Americans during this time period. In it’s storytelling, it brought to the attention of Americans all the horror and cruelty of slavery. It humanized African American slaves and proved to change people’ 

s minds about the morality of slavery. The book helped to bring slavery to forefront as a political issue. It was very meaningful to Northerners and Southerners in different ways. It energized the North to start becoming more abolitionist and anti-slavery, and made the South uncomfortable and forced them to become more defensive of their attitudes supporting slavery. It is often credited with being a factor in the rising tension between the North and South, tensions that eventually escalated to the eruption of the Civil War.  It is claimed that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he said to her, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.”


The novel has been adapted into a number of film and play versions. This allowed it to reach an even wider audience, because maybe people viewed stage versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin rather than reading it. This provided a medium for the illeterate to appreciate Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well, however, some of the stage adaptations were not faithful to the message in Stowe’s book. There were many instances in which versions of the show were essentially minstrel shows, white actors dressed up as African-American characters for comic effect in order to perpetuate black stereotypes. This went against the serious nature of the novel and it’s anti-slavery message. There were even stage versions of the book that expressed a blatant pro-slavery message. However, the novel’

s true message has been restored to the general public, in that it continues to be popular to this day, while blackface minstrel shows are not.


This First Edition book was bound in cloth and sold for the price of $1.50. A slightly more expensive version, sold at $2.00, was bound in cloth extra guilt, and was, presumably, stronger. 




Uncle Tom’

s Cabin was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811-July 1, 1896) and published by John P. Jewett and Company on March 20, 1853, with illustrations by Hammatt Billings. 





Hello world!

January 29th, 2009

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