Mar 25, 2021 - Sale 2562

Sale 2562 - Lot 35

Price Realized: $ 6,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,500 - $ 3,500
WITH A PIECE OF FLAX HE RAISED AND SPUN (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) Signed photograph of Lewis G. Clarke, inspiration for the escaped slave in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Albumen photograph, 3 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches, on original mount with printed caption on verso, signed in lower margin "Lewis G. Clark, Boston, Mass" and inscribed on verso "Copyright, I rased that flax and spun that thred," with a strand of thread tied through a punched hole in one corner of the card; small ink stain in image. Boston, MA, circa 1890s

Additional Details

Lewis Garrard Clarke (1815-1897) was born into Kentucky slavery. To avoid being sold into a yet worse fate in Louisiana, he fled for Canada and freedom in 1841. He published "Narrative of the Sufferings of Lewis Clarke" and went out on the abolitionist speaking circuit, where he met aspiring author Harriet Beecher Stowe. The "Uncle Tom's Cabin" character George Harris is generally believed to be based on Clarke. He remained a popular speaker long after the war. A biography of Clarke appeared in 2014, "When Owing a Shilling Costs a Dollar: The Saga of Lewis G. Clarke, Born a White Slave" by Carver Clark Gayton.

We have traced no other examples of this Clarke portrait, though it was apparently done at the same sitting as two other well-known portraits. The caption on verso reads "Lewis G. Clark, the Original George Harris of Uncle Tom's Cabin, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, March 15, 1815, on his grandfather's plantation, on Silver Creek, is brother to J.M. Clark, of Cambridgeport, the Messenger in the U.S. Sub-Treasury." We trace no other Clarke portraits at auction.