Category Archives: fauna

GOOD BYE MY HONEY I’M GONE

Good Bye My Honey I'm Gone

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  “Good Bye My Honey I’m Gone”

Composer:  M.H. Rosenfeld

Lithographer:  C.H. Baker

Publisher:  W.A. Evans

Year & Place:  1885, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music B-490

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:  b0490

Basic Description

This lithograph depicts a well-dressed African American woman, valise and African American boy in tow, boldly walking away from two men: one white, in a policeman’s uniform and holding a billy club to his mouth, and the other black, leaning on the officer and pointing in the woman’s direction.  To the immediate right of the woman three chickens fly away and, in the distance, a sailing ship exits right.  Behind the men are the traceries of two, cottage-like buildings. Gigantic shaving razors are noticeable in the dress and pants’ pockets of the woman and boy, respectively.

Personal Description

Despite the peripheral chaos (i.e., the scattering chickens and expressions of alarm or puzzlement on the men’s and boy’s faces) and the embedded threats of violence (i.e., the razors), there’s a strange calm pervading this image that’s largely located in the fleeing woman.  Is it her pleasant smile, her shapely figure and full bosom, or her Herculean arms and corporeal confidence that assuage what is clearly a scene of domestic dissolution? Her floral corsages, lightning-like ribbons and ruffles, and leather lace-ups sartorially empower her, so one wonders why the artist felt the additional need to fall back on the razor-toting Negro stereotype?

Reality Check

Mary_Eliza_Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)

Mary Eliza Mahoney, America’s first black graduate nurse, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on May 7, 1845.  The eldest of three siblings, Mahoney attended the Phillips Street School in Boston.

At the age of twenty, Mary Mahoney began working as a nurse.  Supplementing her low income as an untrained, practical nurse, Mahoney took on janitorial duties at the New England Hospital for Women and Children: a state-of-the-art medical facility run solely by female physicians.

In 1878, Mary Mahoney was accepted into the New England Hospital’s graduate nursing program.  During her training, Mahoney participated in mandatory sixteen-hour-per-day ward duty, where she oversaw the well-being of six patients at a time.  Days not requiring ward duty involved attending day-long lectures while simultaneously devoting time to her studies.  Completing the rigorous sixteen-month program, Mahoney was among the three graduates out of the forty students who began the program and the only African American awarded a diploma.

Mary Mahoney worked as a nurse for the next four decades.  During her forty-year career she attracted a number of private clients who were among to most prominent Boston families.   A deeply religious person, the diminutive five-foot tall, ninety-pound Mahoney devoted herself to private nursing due to the rampant discrimination against black women in public nursing at the time.

Mary Mahoney was widely recognized within her field as a pioneer who opened the door of opportunity for many black women interested in the nursing profession.  When the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) was organized in New York in 1908, Mahoney was asked to give the welcoming address.  Following her speech at the 1909 NACGN Convention at Boston, Mahoney was made a lifetime member, exempted from dues, and elected chaplain.  Admitted to New England Hospital for care on December 7, 1925, Mahoney succumbed to breast cancer on January 4, 1926 at the age of eighty-one.

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I’ll send you down a Letter from de Sky

I'll send you down a letter from de sky

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  “I’ll send you down a Letter from de Sky”

Composer:  M.H. Rosenfeld

Lithographer:  Endicott

Publisher:  Hitchcock’s Music Store

Year & Place:  1884, New York, NY

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music B-620

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:  b0620

Basic Description

A razor-wielding man is, ostensibly, being thrust upward into the sky by a high-kicking mule in this lithograph.  Residual disarray from the “ass-kicking” is reflected in several chickens, helplessly fluttering in the clouds.  The sheet music’s highly decorative title is further embellished (in the word “I’ll”) by a diminutive, banjo-playing mule, dressed in an Elizabethan blouse and plumed head gear.

Personal Description

The operative sensibility is chaos, exemplified in the unbridled and out-of-control mule, the wild-eyed, razor-toting black man, and the fluttering chickens.  Still, the man’s uplifted razor is treated almost like a military standard or banner, as if signifying what the entire scene is really all about: base weaponry and sleazy trauma.

Reality Check

Hart_Frank

Frank Hart (aka “Black Dan”) (1858-1908)

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, endurance foot-racing gripped the United States and Great Britain.  The participants in these events were called pedestrians, and they were free to run or walk around an indoor track for as long as they could stay on their feet.  The top pedestrians survived on less than four hours of sleep a day and slept on cots inside the track’s oval.  Fans avidly followed these six-day contests and, frequently, placed bets on prospective winners.

In the early 1880s, an African American pedestrian stood atop this international craze.  His given name was Fred Hichborn but he changed it to Frank Hart when he turned professional.  Hart was born in Haiti in 1858, immigrated to the United States in the 1870s, and soon thereafter began working in a grocery store in Boston Massachusetts.  As the pedestrian craze swept the nation, he began competing in local events.  Hart competed in the international Astley Belt competitions, and set an American record when he won the Rose Belt in New York’s Madison Square Garden in December 1879.

Hart won the prestigious O’Leary Belt competition on April 10, 1880, smashing the world record after covering 565 miles in six days of racing.  He earned about $17,000 in prize money for that competition.  As the race ended, he waved an American flag to thousands of cheering fans who packed Madison Square Garden.   Another African American, William Pegram of Boston finished second with 540 miles.

Hart earned the nickname “Black Dan” from his association with Daniel O’Leary, an Irish immigrant and sports promoter who financed Hart during his professional career.  In later years, Hart played professional baseball in a Chicago Negro league. Hart died in Chicago in 1908.

Shew Fly!

Shew Fly!

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  “Shew Fly!”

Composer:  George Thorne & Rollin Howard

Engraver:  J. Frank Giles

Publisher:  White, Smith & Perry

Year & Place:  1869, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music B-409

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:  b0409

Basic Description

This engraving features a solitary male figure, physically gesturing in such a way as to suggest his effort to escape a large, wasp-like insect to the left.  A word balloon with the expression “SHOO FLY” issues from the man’s mouth.  His big-collared shirt, long-tailed jacket, and striped/patched trousers recall the clothing typically worn by nineteenth-century minstrels.

Personal Description

Although the artist for this cover is not as technically polished as several others in this blog, his attempt at a persuasive African American depiction is laudable.  However, like so many of the black figures typically represented on covers, this one also emphasizes the body-in-motion, with angled limbs and twisted torsos carrying their own subliminal messages and allusions.

Reality Check

Morris

Robert Morris (1823-1882)

Robert Morris became one of the first black lawyers in United States after being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847.  Morris was born in Salem, Massachusetts on June 8, 1823.   At an early age, Morris had some formal education at Master Dodge’s School in Salem.  With the agreement of his family, he became the student of Ellis Gray Loring, a well known abolitionist and lawyer.  By the early 1850s, Robert Morris was appointed a justice of the peace and was admitted to practice before U.S. district courts.  He occasionally served as a magistrate in courts in Boston and nearby Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Vehemently opposed to slavery, he worked with William Lloyd Garrison, Ellis Loring and Wendell Philips and others to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  In 1851 Morris, with the help of Lewis Hayden, managed to remove from the courthouse a newly arrested fugitive slave Shadrack and helped him to get to Canada and freedom.  Arrests were made but Morris and the others were acquitted of the charges.

With the onset of the Civil War, Morris welcomed President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers but objected to the enlistment of African Americans unless they received fair and equal treatment and were offered positions as officers.  He helped in the recruitment of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first officially sanctioned African American unit in the U.S. Army but he continued to speak out against discrimination against them and other black soldiers.  Robert Morris died in Boston on December 12, 1882.

Original Rags

Original Rags

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  Original Rags

Composer: Joplin, Scott

Arranger: Daniels, Charles N.

Publisher: Carl Hoffman

Year & Date:  1899, Kansas City, Missouri

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music #B-940

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0940

Basic Description
An older African-American man bends down to collect a scrap of orange-dotted fabric. Although he gazes at the viewer directly, spectacles conceal his eyes. His lips are exaggerated by orange ink and a corncob pipe sticks out of his mouth. He seems to be collecting rags in front of a dilapidated house and tossing them into a large sack. The sack itself is patched with an orange-dotted rag, and it is large enough to almost conceal the man’s lower body.  Dots of black ink on the ground blend into the etch marks on the man and the dog next to him. Due to the nature of the lithographic medium used, ink seems to splatter up onto the side of the house.

Personal Description
Exaggerated lips were a feature of African-American caricature during this period. Here this visual stereotype is abstracted and stylized by means of color; the man’s lips match the lettering of the title, the dog collar, and the flashes of orange on the rags. His spectacles almost look like “shades,” concealing his eyes as he coolly regards the viewer. A sign on the front of the house refers to the composer, Scott Joplin, “picking” the song. Indeed, the man carefully extracts the rags from the dirty ground to add to his collection, gesturing toward the musical style of Ragtime, itself a collection of styles, including jigs, quadrilles, bamboulas, blues, spirituals, and minstrel songs. Thus the cover image is a derivative play on words – the image of the rag denotes the musical style of the same name. But it could also be argued that the song title, “Original Rags,” equates the depicted process of selecting “rags” from a dilapidated setting with the process of musical innovation. The name Ragtime comes from the phrase “ragged time,” and this cover illustration interprets that idea literally, offering up a muddy, “ragtag” scene, when, in reality, the music itself was carefully composed.

Reality Check


Scott Joplin (1868?-1917)
Scott Joplin was a composer and pianist, who began working in St. Louis, Missouri  as a pianist at John Turpin’s Silver Dollar Saloon in 1885. He was so prolific and successful in writing rags for the piano that he came to be known as the “King of Ragtime.” Born near Texarkana, Texas, to a former slave from North Carolina and a free African-American woman from Kentucky, he was a precocious child whose talent was recognized at a very young age.

After elementary school in Texarkana, he traveled to Sedalia, Missouri, and attended Lincoln High School. He built an early reputation as a pianist and gained fame as a composer of piano ragtime during the 1890s. Joplin was essential in the articulation of a distinctly American style of music.

Minstrelsy was still in vogue when Joplin was a teenager performing in vaudeville shows with the Texas Medley Quartette, a group he founded with his brothers. Joplin was among the musicians who went to the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893, playing night spots close to the fair. Afterward, he returned to Sedalia, the “Cradle  of Ragtime,” accompanied by the pianist Otis Sanders. He taught piano, banjo, and mandolin to musicians like Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden, and Sanford B. Campbell. In the years after the turn of the century, the piano replaced the violin in popularity. Playing ragtime on the parlor piano became all the rage in the U.S. and Europe.

Classic rag soon became defined as an instrumental form, especially on the piano. Ragtime or Rag– from “ragged time”– is a genre that blends elements from marches, jigs, quadrilles, and bamboulas with blues, spirituals, minstrel ballads, and “coon songs.” Its defining rhythm, based on the African bamboula dance pattern, renamed “cakewalk” in America, is also heard in early spirituals. While Rags were published before Joplin’s “Original Rags” in 1899, he must be credited with defining the classic concept and construction of ragtime and with rendering dignity and respectability to the style. He died at New York State Hospital in 1917. Sixty years after his death, he began to receive numerous honors, including the National Music Award, a Pulitzer Prize in 1976, and a U.S. Postage Stamp in 1983.

(Source: African American Lives, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Cambridge University Press, 2004)

I’se Gwine to Leave Old Dixie; Companion to (I’se Gwine Back to Dixie)

I'se Gwine Back To Leave Old Dixie

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  I’se Gwine to Leave Old Dixie; Companion to (I’se Gwine Back to Dixie)

Composer: White, Charles Albert

Lyricist: Cooper, George

Lithographer: F.M. Haskell  & Co.

Publisher: White, Smith & Company

Year & Date:  1879, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music# B-745

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0745

Basic Description
This lithograph consists of a framed illustration with embellished lettering above and below. The illustration shows an old man and woman sitting on top of a horse and buggy. The vehicle is stuffed with their personal belongings— mostly the tools of manual labor— a hoe, a broom, a saw— some chairs, and some wooden barrels.  The man has a white beard and what appears to be a cane behind his shoulder. He is hunched over, tired-looking and frail. The woman holds a clock in her hands. The horse’s eyes are covered by blinders and two children, a boy and a girl, stare at it. A scrawny dog with its ribs showing trots next to them. The outlines of two people working in the field are faintly visible.

Personal Description
The clock stands out from the farm-related belongings and seems to symbolize the pressures facing the couple; the scene could be read in the context of the failure of Reconstruction.  But is this couple sad to leave home or simply worn out, weary, and hungry? In other song sheet covers on this blog, “Dixie,” as an imagined place, is invested with emotional power. A pull toward self-improvement and prosperity in the North is sometimes undermined by disillusionment and a mental Southward slide toward familiarity and so-called comfort. “I’se Gwine to Leave Old Dixie” is a song about leaving the South out of financial need, but wanting to stay. The lithograph could be seen as representing the transition from an idealized way of life to a world of  urgent financial pressures. Rather than representing the hope of a new generation, the children almost seem to be witnessing their own fate in the troubles of the older couple.

Reality Check

Ellen Craft (1826-1891) and William Craft (1824-1900)
Ellen Craft was a light-skinned African American slave woman who helped her husband escape from slavery by passing as white. Her husband William wrote an autobiographical slave narrative that described their dramatic escape.

They traveled by public transportation from their home in Georgia to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, staying in hotels along the way.

Ellen Craft was born in Clinton Georgia to a biracial slave woman and her master. She was so light-skinned that she was often mistaken for a member of her father’s white family. At age 11, she was given as a wedding gift to daughter who lived in Macon. There she met William and married him in 1846. Together they devised their escape plan— to pose as a white slaveholder with his slave.

Because a white woman would not have traveled alone with a male slave, Ellen had to pretend to be not only white but a man. She cut her hair, changed her walk, and wrapped her jaw in bandages to disguise her lack of a beard. To hide her illiteracy, she wrapped her right arm in a sling to have a ready excuse for being unable to sign papers. She explained the bandages by claiming to be an invalid traveling north to receive medical care. They traveled this way from Georgia to Pennsylvania by train, steamer, and ferry without being discovered, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day in 1848.

In Philadelphia they befriended William Lloyd Garrison and then moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where they traveled as anti-slavery lecturers. They fled to England in 1850, after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. In 1868, following the Civil War, they returned to the United States and settled near Savannah, Georgia. They farmed a cotton and rice plantation and attempted to start a school. But financial debts from the plantation and hostility from white neighbors forced them to close it. Ellen Craft died in 1891. William moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he died in 1900.

(Source: Africa Online, http://www.africanaonline.com/slavery_ellen_william_craft.htm)

My Ole Home in Alabama ‘fo’ de War

My Ole Home in Alabama

Location:  Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title of Song:  My Ole Home in Alabama ‘fo’ de War

Composer:  Rutledge, John T.

Illustrator:  Baker, J.E.

Publisher:  G.D. Russell

Year & Place:  1875, Boston, Massachusetts

Collection/Call Number/Copies:  Music# B-658

Historic American Sheet Music Item #: b0658

Basic Description
A bearded African American man grips a cane and stares into space with a look of consternation. Judging from the anchor to his right and the faint outlines of clipper ships, this is a wharf or dock. A worker pulling a barrel looks at the man with an inane expression. He wears light clothing with rolled-up shirtsleeves, while the old man wears a coat and scarf. It is not clear if the older man works at the dock or is just passing through. The wind whipping through his scarf and his heavier dress imply that he is cold or, given the dockworker’s dress, unsuited to the climate. The pouch tied to his waist seems out of context, like something a seventeenth-century European bard would have.  In the top right of the frame is a smaller image of a man and woman in fancy clothing, stepping through a mass of flowers outside what seems to be a house. This is evidently the old man’s memory. The dark shadows of the wharf contrast effectively with the brightness of this vision; this remembered place is warm and filled with light while the wharf is cold and foggy. A dog sniffs the man’s feet. The title of the piece is artistically woven into the illustration itself.

Personal Description
The message of this lithograph is ambiguous– is this a former slave who is uncomfortable in the post-Civil War context? Does it reflect sympathy for everyone who had to leave their homes as a result of the Civil War? The artist renders the man almost with pathos and also without any of the characteristics common to racist caricature at the time. The man appears cold and overtaken with nostalgia for the past, a sentiment that is emphasized by the artist’s use of a high contrast. The space of the man’s memory is brightly lit while the dock is somewhat dark and shadowy. The darkness of the dock combined with the man’s serious expression, especially in contrast with the dockworker’s goofiness,  create a sense of isolation and alienation. The posters behind the African American man’s body advertise boat trips to Alabama, which the title suggests is the man’s home. If the message of the image matches that of the title, one is left to wonder what stops this man from hopping one of these boats. Perhaps this is what he is about to do.

Reality Check

George Washington Williams, was a 19th century American historian most famous for his volumes, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880; as Negroes, as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882), and A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion (1887).Williams was born in 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania and lived there until 1864, when at the age of 14 and lacking virtually any education he left home to join the Union Army. Engaged by the soldier’s lifestyle, he followed this by fighting in Mexico in the overthrow of Maximilian.

After his military career and out of a deep desire for education Williams attended the Newton Theological Institution in Massachusetts. By the time he was 25 years old he had graduated, married, and become pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston. During the next several years he wrote as a columnist for the Cincinnati Commercial, became a lawyer, founded a Boston newspaper called The Commoner (1875), and became the first black member of his state legislature.

Williams spent only one term in political office, partly because he saw little chance of reelection, and partly because he increasingly desired to commit the majority of his time to working as a historian. In his historical works Williams strove for objectivity and the truthful recording of history, but he also essentially wrote from a revisionist perspective. He researched avidly and wrote with the goal of rerecording American history to honestly and responsibly include the roles and experiences of African Americans.

His first text, The History of the Negro Race in America, received a plethora of literary reviews — largely favorable critiques. Of the negative reviews he faced, most critics noted that his writing style tended to be overblown and was tinted by his theological training.  Nonetheless almost all reviewers noted the immense value of the work he had done. Public reaction was by and large a kind of amazement — both because of the extent of his work (the text was two volumes in total) and because he was an African American. In fact his light skin tone and dignified demeanor gained him more respect from white Americans than may have been expected at the time. A History of the Negro Troops received similar but generally better reviews.

In 1890 Williams studied conditions in the Belgian Congo at the commission of President Benjamin Harrison and on one occasion wrote a letter of complaint to the Belgian Crown about the treatment of the indigenous Africans.  Although he had hoped to spark a movement in protest of the Belgian government’s role in its African colony, little came of his effort in the U.S.  He then moved to England to work on a book which would focus on Africa. Unfortunately Williams fell ill shortly after arriving in England and died at the age of 41.

Ethiopian Quadrilles, Danced and Sung by the Virginia Minstrels

Ethiopian Quadrilles

Ethiopian Quadrilles

Location:               Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University  (Durham, North Carolina)

Title of Song:        Lucy Long; De Boatman Dance; Massa Is A Stingy Man; Old Dan Tucker

Composer:            OnyQjva A. Nagerj

Publisher:             Firth & Hall

Year & Place:      1843; New York, New York

Collection/Call Number/Copies:                Music B.154, no.7

Historic American Sheet Music Item #:   hasmsm.007

Basic Description

This cover shows an array of figures clustered in vignettes that are separated by zoological and botanical frames. Two at the top are surrounded by a snake while a third scene is framed by various botanical forms as well as corn and a possum-like animal. Those on the bottom, however, are framed by two long catfish. In clockwise order from the top, central vignette the following is visualized: a man in tattered clothes throwing his hands above his head in a spirited; one male holding a banjo while another figure in the background tries to corral two cows; one male walking in a perplexed manner while another offers no help as he tends to his leg; one man striking a pose;  a man with a protruding, rotund belly striding diagonally across the space while another male figure plays the banjo; one male dancing in pajamas while his partner plays a banjo; two men in a boat on a river attempting to kill an alligator using their banjo as a weapon.

Personal Description

The title of the music tells the viewer that the songs are part of show that would be performed by minstrels.  Thus the image’s humor, hodge-podge, collagish, and cryptic nature all make sense within this context.  The ambiguity of conceptual connections between the different portraits also ceases to be an issue as they may be an advertisement for separate skits that might have constituted one show.  Ethiopian Quadrilles combines a wide variety of elements such as snakes, banjos, a crocodile, plants and catfish.  While some vignettes are simple renditions of music and dancing, other more complex ones display individual moments from what promise to be longer narratives.  The elements of stereotype and caricature that are present also make sense within the context of minstrelsy.  This includes the distorted body of the male figure with the protruding stomach.  The most humorous scene, that in which two men purport to “knock out” a crocodile with a banjo, similarly, conveys to be a derisive message about intellect (or lackthereof).  This becomes clearer when one notices that the animated-crocodile is in no way menacing.

Reality Check


Peter Ogden and The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows

In 1842, the Philomathean Literary Society, an association of blck men and boys interested in literature, oratory and music became a lodge within the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows.  Peter Ogden, a black Jamaican sailor living in New York City, who became odd fellow while in England, took their petition to Victoria Lodge in Liverpool after white odd fellows in the United States refused to initiate black men.  This became one of the major black fraternal organizations maintaining a large membership body.  When Ogden died in 1852, there were 32 lodges.  By 1863 there were 50 and by 1900, there were 2,253 with over 70,000 members.  The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows continues to this day and have a headquarters in Philadelphia.

(Source: Dodson, Howard, Christopher Paul. Moore, and Roberta Yancy. The Black New Yorkers: The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology. New York: John Wiley, 2000.)

The title of the music tells the viewer that the songs are part of show that would be performed by minstrels.  Thus the image’s humor, hodge-podge, collagish, and cryptic nature all make sense within this context.  The ambiguity of conceptual connections between the different portraits also ceases to be an issue as they may be an advertisement for separate skits that might have constituted one show.  Ethiopian Quadrilles combines a wide variety of elements such as snakes, banjos, a crocodile, plants and catfish which, do not in themselves seem to fit together.  While some vignettes are simple renditions of music and dancing, other more complex ones display individual moments from what promise to be longer narratives.  The elements of stereotype and caricature that are present also make sense within the context of minstrelsy.  This includes the distorted body of the male figure with the protruding stomach.  The most humorous scene, that in which two men purport to “knock out” a crocodile with a banjo, similarly, conveys to be a derisive message about intellect (or lackthereof).  This becomes clearer when one notices that the animated-crocodile is in no way menacing.