Artifact of the Month – Cigar Case

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The artifact of the month for January is one of the new pieces that came to us last year.  It is a cigar case constructed of two lacquered papier-mâché panels connected with an accordian-like fabric lining.  On one side is an image of Queen Victoria while the other side shows a sailor branding a slave, underneath which is written “Extinction of Slavery–Civilisation of Africa.”

Although not certain of the exact history of this particular cigar case and the purpose for the images, we do know that the image on this case very closely resembles Nathaniel Currier’s lithograph titled “Branding Slaves”.  Nathaniel Currier began the company that eventually came to be Currier & Ives, who were very well known for their lithographs.  It is thought that Currier’s lithograph was based on the painting “Scenes on the Coast of Africa” by François-Auguste Baird, who was an outspoken opponent of slavery and the slave trade.   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Great Eastern

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As I continue to comb through and photograph our print/poster collection, I am constantly finding pieces that depict incredibly interesting bits of history.  In most cases, bits I never even knew existed, which spurs me to research and learn more.  One print I found earlier this week shows the steamship Great Eastern (1858-1888) on a sandbar covered in advertisements for all kinds of activities available on board, including horse races, a concert and the Swiss Giantess.  It’s quite amazing to look at and so I decided to make it the artifact of the month for October.

And if you look closely at the print, you can see that there are a massive amount of people on the ship with tons more trying to board.  When I find something like this I just have to know more and understand the purpose behind it.   Read more

Immigration – Creating the United States

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As one who works on genealogy in her spare time, I have always (well, since I was a teenager) been interested in immigration.  This is why when I came across two prints showing before and after images of a gentleman who emigrated to the United States, I wanted to share them.  Immigrants are a vital part of our country and who we are, despite how horribly they have often been treated.

I think what I liked most about these two prints is what they imply.  The first, titled “Outward Bound”, shows a man who is clearly poor and fallen upon hard times studying an advertisement for a ship to New York and holding what is most likely his last coin.  The second image shows the same man (at least I assume it’s the same man) cleaned up and well dressed, clearly much better off than he was in Ireland, looking at an advertisement for a ship back to Ireland.   Read more