Fig. 2: (left) T. Rice as Jim Crow, sheet music cover (New York: E. Riley, c1832).
Courtesy Harvard Theatre Collection, The Houghton Library.
(right) Topsy, illustration by Hammatt Billings for the “Illustrated Edition” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Boston: Jewett, 1853). Note how directly Billings’ image of Topsy derives from the minstrel icon of “Jim Crow,” as performed by a white man in blackface. Barrett Collection, Small Library, University of Virginia.
Fig. 3: "Freedom to Africa," the last of the several hundred illustrations Billings drew for the “Illustrated Edition” of Uncle Tom's Cabin (Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1853). By showing emancipated slaves disappearing into the distance, Billings illustrates the “colonizationalist” ending Stowe imagines for the story of blacks in the U.S. Barrett Collection, Small Library, University of Virginia.
Fig. 4: This souvenir handkerchief was produced in 1852 by Stowe’s publisher, Jewett and Co., to promote sales of the novel. It features the sentimental song Jewett commissioned John Greenleaf Whittier to write (with music by Manuel Emilio), a banner celebrating the number of copies the book has sold, and advertising by four Boston businesses. Most amazingly, it is printed on cotton, perhaps from a plantation like Simon Legree’s. Barrett Collection, Small Library, University of Virginia.
Fig. 5: Porcelain figurine of Tom reading the Bible (c1852). Made in Staffordshire, England, figures of Tom and Eva, Topsy, the Harrises and Cassy were also popular in America. According to legend, the British workers created the Uncle Tom’s Cabin figures themselves, during their lunch break, to express their solidarity with the novel’s abolitionist vision. They were bought, however, by the middle class, and it is not easy to say whether their presence on an etagere alongside figures from Dickens’ novels or folk tales was decorative or political. Courtesy Mary Schlosser.
Fig. 6: “Oh! I’se So Wicked.” Sheet music cover, showing Mrs. George Howard as Topsy (New York: Waters, 1854). Mrs. Howard, the sister of George Aiken, author of the most popular dramatization, was a white woman who blacked up to play Topsy thousands of times between 1853 and the 1880s. Her daughter Cordelia was the original Eva, and her husband, who wrote this song along with three others for the play, often took on the part of St. Clare. Courtesy Harvard Theatre Collection, The Houghton Library.
Fig. 7: “Topsy’s Recreation,” color lithograph poster for a “Tom Show” showing how stereotypical the representations of African Americans became. In Stowe’s novel, Topsy is “re-created” as a civilized, literate Christian, but onstage her role was to dance and misbehave. (Produced by the Erie Litho Co., c1900) Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.
Fig. 8: Life in the Sunny South. Advertising card for C. H. Smith's Double Mammoth Uncle Tom's Cabin Co. The text on the back announces a performance in Providence, on Monday, July 10 (probably 1882), and promises that the play is “to be presented with a genuine cotton plantation.” Words like “genuine,” “realistic” and “authentic” repeatedly appear in Tom Show ads next to caricatures of “happy slaves” like the ones seen here. Purchased with funds from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust, University of Virginia.
Fig. 9: “The Shelby’s Entertain.” Still photo from 1927 Universal production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, used as illustration in Grosset & Dunlap’s “movie edition” of the novel. This is the scene the film begins with, showing neighboring plantation owners gathering at the Shelbys’ for Eliza’s wedding to George. Universal built this “old Kentucky home” on their back lot in California, importing from Louisiana the Spanish moss that hangs from the trees. Editor’s collection.
Fig. 10: “I Never Had a Mammy.” Sheet music cover (New York: Irving Berlin, 1923). This was one of many songs written by The Duncan Sisters, Rosetta and Vivian, for their hit musical Topsy and Eva. They toured with the show throughout the 1920s (and brought out a film version 1927, with additional direction by D. W. Griffith), revived it in the Thirties, and continued their act as the white and black girls through the 1950s. Their act’s irreverence toward the novel’s sentimentality is typical of the kind of transformations that began in the Twenties. Courtesy John Sullivan.
Fig. 11: “I Ain’t Yo Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Poster for 1992 production of the play by Robert Alexander. Alexander’s work shows both how far American culture has come from Stowe’s novel, and at the same time how repeatedly we return to it. The story that began with Stowe’s vision in church in 1851 has been revised many times. The end of that process is still not in sight. Courtesy The San Francisco Mime Troupe.