Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin, ca. 1870
Published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is considered to be history’s first blockbuster. Capitalizing on the deep feelings and unprecedented sales generated by the book, marketers created and sold objects for profit that evoked the emotional experience of the book. ln an era when spin-off products were unheard of, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became a massive cultural industry, spawning a dizzying explosion of Tom-themed merchandise in every imaginable form. Known in their day as “Tomitudes,” these commodities transformed the drama of the novel into goods that could be part of the reader’s daily lives
Machine-printed handkerchiefs such as this example provided a fashionable and affordable talisman through which readers could publically demonstrate their sympathy for the plight of Southern slaves. The images on the textile, drawn directly from Hammatt Billing’s original illustrations for the novel’s lavishly bound Christmas edition of 1853, can be read as reenacting the sentiment at the heart of Stowe’s storyline.
This object was
It is credited
Gift of Spencer Bickerton.
Its dimensions are
H x W: 41 x 48 cm (16 1/8 x 18 7/8 in.)
Cite this object as
Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin, ca. 1870; USA; cotton; H x W: 41 x 48 cm (16 1/8 x 18 7/8 in.); Gift of Spencer Bickerton; 1936-55-1