May 07, 2020 - Sale 2534

Sale 2534 - Lot 261

Price Realized: $ 4,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 3,000 - $ 4,000
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD CONDUCTOR, RECONSTRUCTION SENATOR, TUSKEGEE AIRMAN (FAMILY PAPERS.) Papers of five generations of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family of Portland, Maine. 82 items (0.7 linear feet) in 2 boxes, various sizes and conditions. Vp, 1853-1961 and undated

Additional Details

This collection includes material from five generations of an African-American family with a remarkable historical footprint. The oldest dated item in this collection is a deed to Reuben Ruby (1798-1878) of Portland, ME for a piece of property on "the line of the Abyssinian Meeting House lot," 20 May 1853. Ruby was an African-American hack driver who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and helped form the Maine Anti-Slavery Society.
Reuben's son George Thompson Ruby (1841-1882) went south to Louisiana as a teacher in 1864 and served as a state senator in Reconstruction Texas from 1870 to 1874. The collection includes a pair of signed cartes-de-visite of George: one made in Washington, DC and the other taken by Blessing & Brothers in Galveston, TX and inscribed "Your brother G.T. Ruby." Only one portrait of Ruby seems to be commonly known, and none have ever been traced on the auction market. These two photographs are new images of this important Reconstruction-era politician.
Also included is a sketchbook containing 42 drawings, inscribed "To Uncle Will from his niece Mabel, Christmas 1886." It was apparently inscribed to George's brother William Wilberforce Ruby Sr. (1834-1906), a Portland fireman, by George's daughter Mabel V. Ruby (born in Texas in 1871). She was living in Washington, DC by this point, where she later became a public school teacher for many years. The drawings appear to be generic Victorian-era scenes of white children; the volume bears the tag of a Portland art supply store.
Three estate papers of William Wilberforce Ruby Jr. (1876-1961) and his wife Blanche, 1958 and 1961, link these papers to the later generations. Next come William Jr.'s three children, represented by baby pictures. Also included are the high school French notebook of daughter Gladys L. Ruby (1903-1977), as well as 8 photographs of her classmates in the Portland High School class of 1922.
The fifth and final generation found here are the children of Gladys's sister Marguerite Jackson. Pauline Frances Jackson (1921-1995), who spent her whole life in Portland, is represented by two baby photographs and her 1938 diploma from Portland High School. Her brother Eugene B. Jackson (1923-2015) served in the Tuskegee Airmen during World War Two and graduated from Boston University; he spent his later life in North Marshfield, MA. Included here are 4 portraits of Sergeant Jackson as a young man, one of them in uniform dated March 1943. Also included is his 1948 certificate from the New England Aircraft School.
Also included are 3 photographs and 5 documents from Johnson cousins who settled in Cleveland, OH, 1886-1934; a worn transcription of a published poem ("Go court the glance of every eye") from circa the 1850s; a pair of Masonic group portraits of the Mt. Lebanon Lodge of Portland, 1950; 7 unidentified photographs from Portland photographers; and a group of 28 other unidentified family photographs. Most intriguing are two very early images on glass: a cased 3 x 2 1/2-inch daguerreotype of a young African-American man circa late 1840s, and an uncased loose 4 x 3-inch ambrotype plate of a different mustachioed African-American man circa late 1850s.
Provenance: purchased at Eugene Jackson's estate sale in Marshfield, MA, June 2019.