Illustration for "George Washington Jones: A Christmas Gift That Went A-Begging"
Demeaning racial stereotyping persisted in American culture long after the Emancipation Proclamation, as evidenced by Ruth McEnery Stuart’s George Washington Jones. In this sentimental novel, a young African American orphan finds his way in Reconstruction-era New Orleans by emulating his late, enslaved grandfather, who had been given as a Christmas present to be the personal servant of the master’s daughter. In Edward Henry Potthast’s illustration, the protagonist checks his bedraggled appearance before calling on potential employers and laments, “Wush’t I was a little purtier.” In what is presented as a happy twist of fate, George gets hired by the same family his grandfather served. Stuart’s stories gained widespread popularity in her day for their vivid portrayals of southern characters and dialects. A tale such as George Washington Jones also functioned to assuage white audiences’ anxieties about postwar racial tensions by suggesting that blacks were content to reproduce old social hierarchies and patterns of faithful servitude under slavery.
- Artist: Edward Henry Potthast, American, 1857-1927
- Medium: Watercolor, charcoal and white crayon on cream, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper.
- Dates: 1903
- Dimensions: Sheet: 19 3/4 x 14 13/16 in. (50.2 x 37.6 cm) Image: 14 1/16 x 8 7/8 in. (35.7 x 22.5 cm) (show scale)
- Signature: Signed in charcoal, lower right, "E. Potthast"
- Collections:American Art
- Museum Location: This item is on view in Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st Floor
- Accession Number: 33.392
- Credit Line: Peter F. Schofield Fund
- Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
- Caption: Edward Henry Potthast (American, 1857-1927). Illustration for "George Washington Jones: A Christmas Gift That Went A-Begging," 1903. Watercolor, charcoal and white crayon on cream, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper., Sheet: 19 3/4 x 14 13/16 in. (50.2 x 37.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Peter F. Schofield Fund, 33.392
- Catalogue Description: Reproduced as an illustration in Ruth McEnery Stuart, "George Washington Jones: A Christmas Gift That Went A-Begging" (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company, 1903), facing p. 28, with the caption, "'Wush't I was a little purtier,' he lamented."
- Record Completeness: Best (87%)