Domestic Servants & Free People of Color

  • Domestic Slave with Planter's Family, Virginia, ca. 1859-64

    Shows female nursemaid holding white baby. The individuals are not identified, but the place is the town of New Market, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
  • Carrying a Sedan Chair (Palanquin), Brazil, 1816

    Caption, A lady going to visit. The Brazilian scholar, Gilberto Freyre writes: Within their hammocks and palanquins the gentry permitted themselves to be carried about by Negroes for whole days at a time, some of them travelling in this manner from one plantation to another, while others employed this mode of transport in the streets; when acquaintenances met, it was the custom to draw up alongside one another and hold a conversation (The Masters and the Slaves [New York, 1956], pp. 409-410, 428). (In the 2nd ed. [London, 1817], all images are in b/w.)
  • Extracting a Chigger, Brazil, 1820-24

    Water color on paper, the artist titled this drawing Extracting a jigger, scene in the Brazils. A black woman is shown extracting a chigger from the foot of a white man in what appears to be some sort of tavern; an earthenware pottery jug or jar (for water?) is in the left-hand corner. A tropical flea native to the Americas, the chigger (jigger, chigoe) was extremely troublesome to Europeans and Africans in many areas of the New World. Invading the skin through the feet or toes, they laid their eggs between the toes or under the nail, and if the egg sacs were not removed (by a simple technique); they could cause intense itching and pain. Chigger transmitted infections could result in festering sores and serious, sometimes incapacitating, lameness in the feet, and the chigger was often a pathfinder for tetanus and other infections. Earle, an English painter who travelled widely, lived in Rio from early 1820 to early 1824, with occasional trips to Chile and Peru during that period.
  • Enslaved House Servants and White Children, South Carolina, 1863

    Caption, Domestic Life in South Carolina--from a sketch by our special artist. This illustration (which also shows the white children playing with a black child), the ILN article reports, represents the old Negro servants of the planter's family among his children . . . . The children of the [white] family grow up among the Negro domestic servants, and often learn to regard them with as much affection as they show their own parents (p. 552).
  • House Servant, Baltimore, 1861

    Caption: The Dandy Slave: A Scene in Baltimore, MD. According to the accompanying article, Whenever a negro can afford it, he dresses well, sometimes quietly and in good taste . . . . One rainy Sunday in Baltimore, our artist saw and sketched one of these dandy negroes escorting home from church his mistress. He was a slave, and this poor old faded woman owned him (p. 307). This man was apparently hired out by his owner and worked as a waiter on steam-boats or hotels; he was, of course, compelled to share his wages with the owner.
  • Carrying a Sedan Chair (Palanquin), Brazil, 1820s

    Caption cadeira, or sedan chair of Bahia; two domestic servants (slaves) carrying a European woman. The Brazilian scholar, Gilberto Freyre writes: Within their hammocks and palanquins the gentry permitted themselves to be carried about by Negroes for whole days at a time, some of them travelling in this manner from one plantation to another, while others employed this mode of transport in the streets; when acquaintenances met, it was the custom to draw up alongside one another and hold a conversation (The Masters and the Slaves [New York, 1956], pp. 409-410, 428).
  • Carrying a Covered Hammock, Bahia, Brazil, 1712-1714

    Two slaves transporting a merchant or planter in a covered hammock; on the right, another slave (?) carries the European's sword and an umbrella to shield him from the sun when he alights. The author describes this scene: Rich people, even if it is inconvenient, hardly ever walk. They are always industrious in finding ways to distinguish themselves from other men. In America, as in Europe, they are ashamed to use the legs that nature has given us for walking. They are gently carried in beds of woven cotton, suspended at both ends on a large pole that two blacks carry on their heads or on their shoulders. And being hidden there so that the rain or ardor of the sun cannot make them uncomfortable, this bed is covered with a fringe of gold hanging from curtains that one can close when one wants. There, comfortably laying down, the head supported by a bolster of luxurious fabric, they are carried comfortably . . . These cotton hammocks are called Serpentin and are not Palanquins, as some travelers call them (Frézier, p. 526; our translation). The Brazilian scholar, Gilberto Freyre, writes: Within their hammocks and palanquins the gentry permitted themselves to be carried about by Negroes for whole days at a time, some of them travelling in this manner from one plantation to another . . . . Nearly all [slaveholders] travelled by hammock . . . (The Masters and the Slaves [New York, 1956], pp. 409-410, 428); see also, other images of hammocks in this website. The same illustration appears in the Paris edition of Frézier, but as a fold out spreading over two pages (1716).
  • Carrying a Sedan Chair or Palanquin, Ile De France (Mauritius), 1818

    Caption: Ile de France: Palanquin. Shows four men (slaves?) carrying a palanquin or covered litter; on the right, a man is being shaved by a barber by the side of what appears to be a wood plank house. The palanquin is described in the list of plates as a sorte de voiture sans roues, a l'usage des colons riches du pays. Vue prise a l'ile de France. (A type of carriage/coach used by the rich [white] colonists of this country.) This engraving was published in an elaborate Atlas of 112 plates, some in color, based on drawings made by various artists during a French geographical expedition in the early nineteenth century; the expedition visited Ile de France in May 1818. (The Atlas accompanies a multi-volume account of the expedition, and is sometimes cataloged under the authorship of Ministere de la Marine et des Colonies [France], rather than Freycinet, the commander of the expedition. ) Ile de France, in the Indian Ocean, was renamed Mauritius, its current name, when the British captured the island from the French in 1810. See other images of the palanquin on this website.
  • Washing Clothes in a River (Dominica or St. Vincent), West Indies, 1770s

    Title, West India Washer Women, shows several women washing clothes in a river; a small child is playing by the riverside. The location is not given, but it is probably Dominica or St. Vincent. The print shown here (slide courtesy of Kenneth Bilby) is from an oil painting located in the National Library of Jamaica; another version of this print is held by the Barbados Museum (see, for example, reproduction in Andrew J. O'Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided [Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2000], p. 37; other versions of the painting are also known). Compare with image reference NW0150-a on this website. Agostino Brunias (sometimes incorrectly spelled Brunyas, Brunais), a painter born in Italy in 1730, came to England in 1758 where he became acquainted with William Young. Young had been appointed to a high governmental post in West Indian territories acquired by Britain from France, and in late 1764 Brunias accompanied Young to the Caribbean as his personal artist. Arriving in early 1765, Brunias stayed in the islands until around 1775, when he returned to England (exhibiting some of his paintings in the late 1770s) and visited the continent. He returned to the West Indies in 1784 and remained there until his death on the island of Dominica in 1796. Although Brunias primarily resided in Dominica he also spent time in St. Vincent, and visited other islands, including Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts, and Tobago. See Lennox Honychurch, Chatoyer's Artist: Agostino Brunias and the Depiction of St Vincent, for what is presently the most informative and balanced discussion of Brunias and his romanticized and idyllic paintings of West Indian scenes and slave life (Jl of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, vol. 50 [2004], pp.104-128); see also Hans Huth, Agostino Brunias, Romano (The Connoisseur, vol. 51 [Dec. 1962], pp. 265-269).
  • Female Clothing Styles, Paramaribo, Suriname, ca. 1831

    A young enslaved woman carrying a bouquet of flowers to a festival/party (center), an elaborately dressed domestic servant (left), and an elderly missie (former mistress of a white man, usually a free woman of color) walking with a cane and wearing a head tie under her straw hat (right). Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • Free Woman of Color and Household Slaves, Paramaribo, Suriname, ca. 1831

    A missie (that is, a common-law wife or mistress of a white man, usually a free woman of color) taking her child to be baptized, accompanied by two slaves -- one carries the infant, the other a bible. The women are dressed in their finest. Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • Enslaved Servants to a Planter, Suriname, ca. 1831

    The image shows a planter accompanied by two slaves going to a neighboring plantation. Planters who visit from one plantation to another, Benoit writes, have themselves followed and preceeded by two slaves who carry their provisions and arms(p. 30); the slaves carry cutlasses and one carries the planter's rifle. Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • Washing and Ironing Clothes, Suriname, ca. 1831

    Three women washing clothes at a tub (left), and two others, one carrying her infant on her back, ironing (right). In Suriname, the author writes, the washerwomen are almost always black, and they achieve a degree of perfection that is rarely surpassed elsewhere (p. 22). Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • House Servants Going to Church, Paramaribo, Suriname, ca. 1831

    On Sundays and holidays, rich planters and businessmen go to church with their families, and are sometimes followed by five or six slaves (p. 23). Note clothing styles. Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • Plantation Cooks, Suriname, ca. 1831

    Describing the layout of a plantation, the author writes that the kitchen is located about 15 or 20 steps behind the master's house, and is furnished with all the necessary utensils as well as an oven to bake bread (p. 30). The two people in the center are kitchen slaves or cooks; man on left is using a mortar and pestle. Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • Black Coachmen, Havana, Cuba, 1839

    Caption, Entrada del Paseo Militar (Habana). Urban scene, showing among others, liveried figures of black coachman standing by a carriage (left), and another leading another carriage (right); a black man and woman (center foreground), wearing working clothes or rural dress. This illustration was, in fact, done by the French artist Frederic/Federico Mialhe, who lived in Cuba from 1838 to 1854; see, Emilio Cueto, Mialhe's Colonial Cuba [Miami, The Historical Association of Southern Florida, 1994] for the same image and for identification of the date at which it was done, pp. 33, 34).
  • Coachmen with Carriages, Havana, Cuba, 1855

    Caption, Puertas de Monserrate, shows the Quitrin (horse-drawn carriage) being driven by liveried coachmen. For a detailed description of the Quitrin, see image LCP-15 on this website. The illustration shown here is based on, and is slightly different from, a picture by the same title by the French artist Frederic/Federico Mialhe, who lived in Cuba from 1838 to 1854 (See, Emilio Cueto, Mialhe's Colonial Cuba [Miami, The Historical Association of Southern Florida, 1994], for the same image and its date; the original lithograph by Mialhe was published in 1853 [ pp. 84, 86, 87].
  • Coachman with Horse and Carriage, Havana, Cuba, ca. 1850

    Caption, El Quitrin. See image LCP-15 for a detailed description of the Quitrin. A slightly altered version in b/w is also published in Maturin Ballou, History of Cuba (Boston, 1854), facing p. 131. See also, Emilio Cueto, Mialhe's Colonial Cuba [Miami, The Historical Association of Southern Florida, 1994], p. 95 for the same image. This painting is based on a drawing originally done by the French artist Frederic/Federico Mialhe, who lived in Cuba from 1838 to 1854 (see LCP-15), but the painting, according to Cueto, was done by another artist).
  • Domestic Servant, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1827

    Caption,
  • Domestic Servant, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1827

    Caption,
  • Male Household Servant, Virginia, early 1850s

    David Hunter Strother was a widely known and popular mid- 19th century American graphic artist and writer, originally from Virginia/West Virginia. Under the pen name Porte Crayon he wrote and illustrated Virginia Illustrated, Adventures of Porte Crayon and His Cousins, a narrative of the experiences of several travelers through central Virginia in late 1853 (see Cecil Eby, Porte Crayon: the life of David Hunter Strother [Chapel Hill, 1960]); the series appeared in five parts over 1854-56 in Harpers New Monthly Magazine. The illustration shown here is from this series. Travelling through Amherst County in Central Virginia, the author reports on an elderly male household servant, Billy who polished his boots, and provided his opinions on how the manufacture of boots had changed since his youth (pp. 177-179). See also references, HARP01, HARP03.
  • Female Cook in her Kitchen, Virginia, early 1850s

    David Hunter Strother was a widely known and popular mid- 19th century American graphic artist and writer, originally from Virginia/West Virginia. Under the pen name Porte Crayon he wrote and illustrated Virginia Illustrated, Adventures of Porte Crayon and His Cousins, a narrative of the experiences of several travelers through central Virginia in late 1853 (see Cecil Eby, Porte Crayon: the life of David Hunter Strother [Chapel Hill, 1960]); the series appeared in five parts over 1854-56 in Harpers New Monthly Magazine. The illustration shown here is from this series. Stopping for a meal at a house in Amherst County, Central Virginia, Strother writes that the cook belongs to the type of a class whose skill is not of books or training, but a gift both rich and rare . . . who has grown sleek and fat on the steam of her own genius, whose children have the first dip in all gravies, the exclusive right to all livers and gizzards, not to mention breasts of fried chickens (p. 176). See also references HARP02, 03.
  • Puerto Rican Planter with House Slave, ca. 1808

    Caption, A Spanish planter in Porto Rico, luxuriating in his hammock. Waller, a surgeon in the British Navy, briefly visited Puerto Rico in May 1808.
  • George Washington with His Family and Personal Valet, 1796

    Painting by Edward Savage, 1796. The image shown here is a (mistakenly) reversed image of the original, in which G.W. appears on the left (see, for example, the b/w reproduction published in Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art [Menil Foundation, Harvard University Press, 1989], vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 47, fig. 13). The black servant shown in the upper left hand corner (on the right in the original painting) is usually identified as William (Billy) Lee, G.W.'s valet and favorite slave, but some scholars have speculated that he may be, in fact, Christopher Sheels, who served in that capacity after Lee became crippled in the 1780s. There is no documented likeness of William Lee so that any identification is conjectural (Sidney Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution, 1770-1800 [New York Graphic Society, 1973, pp. 218-19], pp. 33, 35).
  • House Slaves with White Family, Brazil, 1816-1831

    Caption, un employé du govern't sortant de chez lui avec sa famille (a government employee leaving his house with his family); note house slaves at the rear of this procession. The engravings in this book were taken from drawings made by Debret during his residence in Brazil from 1816 to 1831. For watercolors by Debret of scenes in Brazil, some of which were incorporated into his Voyage Pittoresque, see Jean Baptiste Debret, Viagem Pitoresca e Historica ao Brasil (Editora Itatiaia Limitada, Editora da Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1989; a reprint of the 1954 Paris edition, edited by R. De Castro Maya).
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