Thursday, March 3, 2016

Slavery & Freedom in Antebellum Richmond, Virginia

I just completed reading Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitonist Art and the American Slave Trade by Maurie D. McInnis (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011). This fantastic book views the Richmond, Virginia slave trade by relating it to British artist Eyre Crowe's 1853 visit and his sketch of a group of slaves waiting to be auctioned. When Crowe was discovered drawing the scene, he was promptly "encouraged" to move on. In 1861, Crowe completed a painting of his earlier sketch.

Crowe and his boss, British author William Makepeace Thackeray stayed at the American Hotel on their Richmond stop. The American Hotel was one of the state capital's finest lodgings at the time and was located at the corner of Main and Eleventh streets.  

One of the several businesses in the American Hotel building was the barbershop of free man of color R. C. Hobson.  As the 1857 advertisement above shows, Hobson offered a variety of grooming and hygiene services at his establishment. Hobson likely chose the location for his shop wisely due to the amount of traffic he could expect from hotel guests as well as neighbor Richmonders.

It is not known if Crowe was specifically in Hobson's shop when he drew the above image. However it is quite possible since Crowe's "A Barber's Shop at Richmond, Virginia," which was later published in the Illustrated London News, was located in the same building where he lodged. Regardless, the sketch gives us one of the few (if not the only) views of an antebellum Southern barbershop. A big thanks is owed to Crowe for his visual contribution.

No comments:

Post a Comment