African American Resources at the CHS


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Museum Objects

Painting, Sculpture, and Folk Art ||  Costume and Textiles ||  Toys and Dolls

Questions or comments concerning access to these resources,
or requests for reproductions should be addressed to research_center@chs.org

Painting, Sculpture, and Folk Art

John Bush
POWDER HORN
Fort William Henry, New York, 1756
Horn and pine
Bequest of C. Everett Bacon, 1989-43-3
This powder horn was carved by a skilled African-American craftsman named John Bush. Bush served in the militia during the French and Indian War.

Charles E. Porter (1847?-1923)
STILL LIFE—FRUIT; APPLES, GRAPES, PEACHES & PEARS
Hartford, Connecticut, 1876
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase, 1974-71-5
Still life painting of fruit by African-American artist Charles E. Porter, who was born and worked in Hartford, CT. Fruit and flower pieces are characteristic of Porter's work.

Nelson A. Primus
LIZZIE MAY ULMER
Probably Hartford, Connecticut, 1876
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase, 1967-1-1
This painting of actress Lizzie May Ulmer was done by an African-American artist named Nelson A. Primus. Born in Hartford, CT, in 1843, Primus worked in Boston painting carriages while trying to establish himself as a portrait painter.

Jerome Stavola (1904-1984)
PARK CONCERT
Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1935-39
Oil on canvas
Gift of Wilfred Fidlar, 1989-88-1
In this genre scene two policemen scold a group of little boys during a concert in the Shell in Bushnell Park. An African-American child appears in the painting.

Unknown
OVERMANTLE PAINTING—"DEEP RIVER"
Probably Deep River, Connecticut, circa 1810
Oil on wood panel
Museum purchase, 1959-87-0
Originally painted for the Southworth house of Deep River, Connecticut, this overmantle, which probably depicts a coastal Connecticut town such as New London, includes a horse-drawn cart driven by an African-American man.

Unknown
TAVERN SIGN—"BACCHUS"
Norwich, Connecticut, circa 1776
Painted wood (pine)
Gift of Maxwell L. Brainard, 1971-30-4
"Bacchus" was carved as a sign for the Backus [sic] Hotel in Norwich, Connecticut, before the Revolution. A white version of "Bacchus" also exists in Connecticut.

Prudence Punderson (1758-1784)
THE FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST SCENES OF MORTALITY
Preston, Connecticut, circa 1783
Silk on linen
Museum purchase, 1962-28-4
This needlework done by Prudence Punderson before her marriage depicts three scenes of mortality: infancy, womanhood and death. The infant is attended by an African-American girl.

Miranda Robinson (1831-1903)
NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER
Saybrook, Connecticut, 1834
Silk on linen
Museum purchase, 1990-142-0
This sampler was wrought by Miranda Robinson Anderson, an African-American woman who lived in Old Saybrook most of her life. The sampler, which was done when she was eight years old, includes the alphabet, a border decoration and the following inscription: "Miranda Robinson aged 8 years |Saybrook July 10 1839 (stand)|Jesus permit thy gracious name to|at the efforts of an infants hand|The path of duty is the path of safety."

Maker Unknown
DRESS
Probably West Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1880s
Linen

This red and white gingham dress was found in an attic of an outbuilding on Deer- cliff Manor Estate in West Hartford. The donor removed a tag that read "Nigger Dress." This everyday work dress may have been worn as a maternity dress.

J. & E. Stevens Co.
"JOLLY NIGGER" BANK
Cromwell, Connecticut, 1843-1869
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1956-44-3
Cast iron bank in the shape of an African-American man (from mid chest up). Man is dressed in white-collared, button-down shirt and black bow tie. His mouth is open (to receive coins) and his lips are large and painted red. The right arm is held up just below shoulder height and is bent at the elbow. The hand is fairly flat (to hold coins). There is a lever behind the left shoulder which, when pressed, raises the right arm up to the mouth and makes the man's yellow eyes roll back.

J. & E. Stevens Co.
BASEBALL BANK
Cromwell, CT, 1875
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1957-30-3
Toy bank with three African-American men playing baseball on top of a hollow stand inscribed with the words: "DARK TOWN BATTERY." When a coin is placed in the pitcher's hand, his arm swings back and stays in place until a button behind the catcher is depressed; then the pitcher's arm is released, sending the coin forward, the batter lifts his bat above the catcher's head and the catcher's glove moves inward to let the coin fall into the base of the bank. The men are dressed in colorful baseball uniforms which say "POSSUMS."

Judd Mfg. Co.
MINIATURE BUCKING MULE AND "DARKIE" BANK
Wallingford, Connecticut, n.d.
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1959-21-0
Toy bank in the shape of a donkey ridden by an African-American man. The donkey rests on a spring device which, when released, causes the donkey to lunge forward flinging the man onto his head.

J. & E. Stevens Co.
TOY PISTOL CAP GUN
Cromwell, Connecticut, 1887
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1959-22-1
Toy pistol with the words "Nigger Head" on the side of it. To operate, a cap is placed in the open mouth of an African-American man; when the trigger is released, the cap explodes.

J. & E. Stevens Co.
"THE NEGRO PREACHER"
Cromwell, Connecticut, circa 1843-1869
Painted cast iron, cloth and wood
Museum purchase, 1962-49-1
A mechanical toy of an African-American preacher. Dressed in a black coat with tails, black and white gingham pants, and a white high-collared shirt, the "preacher" moves back and forth at the waist and shakes his head from side to side when wound. His arms are raised and his facial expression is very lively (eyes wide and mouth open). He is holding a small book and there is a larger book (probably a Bible) on the podium.

The Gong Bell Mfg. Co.
"ANTHROPOMORPHIC TOY"
East Hampton, Connecticut, n.d.
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1963-29-3
An African-American man sits on a log which has wheels beneath it and a bell on the front of it. When pushed, this toy causes the man to move his arm up and down. He holds a coconut in his hand which hits the log and, in turn, rings the bell. The man is dressed in a costume which consists of a red shirt and dark blue trousers; the collar and shirt and trouser cuffs are trimmed with yellow ruffles.

Unknown Maker
MECHANICAL TOY
Circa 1875-1900
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1966-82-0
A mechanical toy with a bear and an African-American man who hold sledge hammers; when operated, the man and the bear hammer on a circular anvil.

J. & E. Stevens Mfg. Co.
"THE KICKING MULE" BANK
Cromwell, Connecticut, circa 1879
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1987-202-1&2
Mechanical toy bank in original box. An African-American man sits before a mule; when a coin is placed behind the man and a button is pressed, the donkey's back legs kick the man who falls over backwards, causing the coin to go into the bank inscribed "ALWAYS DID 'SPISE A MULE."

J. & E. Stevens Mfg. Co.
LOG CABIN BANK
Cromwell, Connecticut, circa 1843-1869
Painted cast iron
Museum purchase, 1962-6-3A
Mechanical bank in the shape of a log cabin that is painted green, red and brown and has several trompe l'oeil objects hanging from it. Coins are designed to be held on the feet of a African-American man standing in the doorway of the cabin; when a broom at the side of the cabin is moved, the man flips upside down and sends the coin into the top of the cabin.

Unknown Maker
DOLL—"GENUINE BABY BUMPS"

Cloth body with composition head
Gift of Marcella Putnam, 1959-60-5
Small African-American baby doll with light blue gingham checked romper. Tag attached to romper reads: "Genuine|Baby Bumps|Trademark."?

Unknown Maker
"COLORED MAMMY" DOLL

Rubber, cloth, and leather
Gift of Elizabeth Dixon Welling, 1896
Homemade female African-American rag doll wears a blue dress, a kerchief on head and an apron. The body is cloth and the hands are leather. Part of one leg is missing.

Unknown Maker
RAG DOLL—"TOPSY"

Cotton
Gift of Mrs. Grace E. Dyer, 2092C
Homemade female African-American rag doll with black yarn hair and a cloth body; facial features sewn with cotton thread include a large nose and a mouth with teeth. Doll wears a red hood, apron, blouse, skirt and petticoat.