Feb 21, 2008 - Sale 2137

Sale 2137 - Lot 181

Price Realized: $ 7,800
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(DOUGLASS, FREDERICK.) Sulfur Bitters, the Great Blood Purifier. Chromolithograph, 6 3/4 x 8 7/8 inches. Racist depiction of Frederick Douglass and his new white bride emerging from a pharmacy. In the store window are a number of boxes and a sign for "Sulfur Bitters, the Great Blood Purifier." Mrs. Douglass looks fondly at her husband who holds a box of the Bitters; in the doorway, a "Cheshire Cat" grins at a dog in the foreground; a newsboy says to a bootblack: "Hi Yi, dere Jimmy, whose dem folkses whats got de Sulfur Bitters?" The bootblack replies "Spec dats Fred. Douglass and his wife. Golly he is going to take de Sulfur Bitters for his complexion." The reverse side of this rather large advertising card bears numerous ads for other products. New York: Mayer, Merkel and Ottman, circa 1885

Additional Details

Frederick Douglass married his second wife, Helen Pitts, in 1884. Contrary to Douglass's naïve belief that theirs would be a symbolic and welcome union of the two races, the public, including Douglass's new father-in-law, a staunch abolitionist, were incensed. Racist images were common in the advertising following the Civil War and Reconstruction, but they were usually generic. This is a particularly unpleasant and personal example.