Tag Archives: abolitionism

The Beginning of Branding

About two-thirds of the way through my summer graduate course on the Expansion of Europe in the early modern era we have already identified three examples of early branding, at least a century before this modern form of advertising is supposed to have been invented.  First, we have the logo of the Dutch East India Company, very visible on all Company ships from the early seventeenth century, then we have the brand of piracy, the immediately-recognizable skull-and-crossbones, and last but not least, Josiah Wedgwood’s abolitionist medallion, first appearing in the later eighteenth century in Britain and then crossing the Atlantic to appear in American anti-slavery materials.

One of the world’s first multinational corporations, organized for long-distance trade to the Indian Ocean and beyond, the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) became the chief importer of Asian goods and wares into Europe in the seventeenth century, opening the doors that Salem ships would sail through two centuries later.  The Dutch were the only Europeans that the Japanese would trade with, and their close commercial connection is evidenced by these two items:  an eighteenth-century hand-colored woodblock print (with the VOC logo clearly visible on the pale flag in the center) and a late seventeenth-century Arita charger made for the European market (from Christies):

Everyone is familiar with the pirate flag, and I wrote an earlier post on its early history.  The flag below, dating from the later eighteenth century, is from the Museum of London’s ongoing exhibition Piratesthe Captain Kidd Story.  This logo’s evolution from piracy to poison is another story altogether.

And here is another famous eighteenth-century logo,one of the first political brands and a transatlantic one at that:  the pioneering industrialist Josiah Wedgwood’s Am I Not A Man And A Brother medallion, made for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the 1780s.  It became very fashionable and effective in Britain, and crossed the Atlantic after 1800.  Below is an original Wedgwood slave medallion from the Victoria & Albert Museum, and a woodcut illustration from John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1837 abolitionist poem Our Countrymen in Chains (Library of Congress).

These examples certainly predate modern advertising, but I think we can go even further back to see the origins of branding, at least to the emergence of printing and printers’ trademarks, or devices, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Unique devices were fashioned by printers as marketing tools in this competitive new industry, and discerning buyers/readers would look for established marks.  The dolphin and anchor device of the famous Venetian printer-publisher Aldus Manutius certainly helped to establish his “brand”, but my favorite device is the cat and mouse (rat?) mark of his fellow Italian printer Melchoirre Sessa (fl. 1510-35).

Sources of Devices:  “First Impressions” Digital Exhibition at the John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester (Manutius–you can also make your own mark there) and the University of Florida’s Printers’ Devices Database (Sessa).

Civil War Remembrance

Collective memory and expressions of remembrance have been fashionable topics among historians of the last generation or so; it seems like European historians prefer to focus on the culture of remembrance that developed after World War I while American historians dwell on that of the  Civil War.  These were devastating conflicts in so many ways.  And of course World War II has its own unique commemorative culture.  I find that holidays in general, and summer holidays in particular, are a great time to develop, or solidify, a sense of place, an increasingly elusive feeling in this generic world.

Given the fact that we’re in an anniversary year–the 15oth anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War–I decided to follow the path laid out by the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), America’s first veteran’s organization and the inspirational force behind Memorial Day ( which was first known as “Decoration Day” and exclusively devoted to Civil War veterans) and examine Civil War remembrance here in Salem.

Before I get to Salem, a brief detour back to my hometown of York, Maine, where the Civil War statue resembles a CONFEDERATE officer, or at least what we have come to perceive as a Confederate officer.  He looks odd not because he is incorrectly garbed but because he is anachronistically garbed, in the Spanish-American War uniform that was contemporary to the time of his creation in 1906.  This statue, like all historical monuments, is reflective of both the time of its installation and the time it commemorates, perhaps more so the former than the latter.

Back to Salem.  There is a Civil War plaque adjacent to the Common but the cemeteries provide a less perfunctory form of commemoration, I think.  Salem has many old cemeteries, but the two newest and largest ones, Greenlawn and Harmony Grove, have the most Civil War grave sites as well as designated shrines.  Both are nineteenth-century “garden” cemeteries;  Greenlawn is public and thus a little worse for wear while Harmony Grove is private though still very accessible.  Actually, Greenlawn’s slight shabbiness adds to its poignancy, represented so well by the Gothic Dickson Chapel in its midst.

Down the path to the monumental Civil War statue, dedicated in the 1880s, surrounded by the graves of Salem men who lost their lives during the War between the States.  Their markers are very subtle, so obscured by grass you don’t realize what they are until you’re right on top of them.  All the attention is focused on the large monumental anonymous (but recognizable) Union soldier in the center of the mound, who represents all of them.  This statue bears all the marks of the official Civil War commemorative organizations, both the G.A.R and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  Lieutenant Colonel Henry Merritt, the namesake of the SUVCW Camp, was killed at the battle of New Bern in April of 1862.

The Battle of New Bern, Harper's Weekly, April 1862

Over to Harmony Grove, a beautiful, terraced cemetery laid out in a series of winding paths lined by the crypts and semi-enclosed plots of some of Salem’s most prominent families.  Despite a circle of decommissioned cannons,  Harmony Grove’s Civil War installation is not as impressive as Greenlawn’s, and many of the individual soldier’s graves are in a deteriorating condition.  A bit further down the path, however, is the impressive grave of one of Salem’s most eminent Civil War heroes, Luis Fenollosa Emilio (1844-1918).

Emilio was part of the amazing Fenollosa-Emilio family of Salem, Spanish immigrants and ardent abolitionists.  He was a cousin to Ernest Fenollosa, the future Japanese cultural minister who I wrote about in an earlier post.  Even though he was only 16, Emilio had enlisted in the army at the beginning of the Civil War, and when Massachusetts Governor John Andrew created the first Northern black regiment in 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (memorialized in Glory), he sought and received an officer’s commission.  In fact, Captain Emilio was the only officer of the 54th who survived the disastrous assault on Fort Wagner and successive conflicts to tell the tale of the Regiment, which he did in A Brave Black Regiment.  The History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment, or Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, 1863-65 (1891).


Wrapping up my cemetery tour, I took a walk through the much older and smaller graveyard near my home.  There were no flags here; these veterans lie unacknowledged.  Two particularly poignant markers caught my eye, one of a seldom-heralded Revolutionary War soldier named Joshua Cross, and the other of Samuel Cook Oliver, a Civil War veteran who was severely wounded at the Battle of Antietam [and] died after many years of suffering cheerfully and bravely borne.

Playing Cards Present and Past

Look at these jokers! I virtually stumbled upon the playing cards of Utrecht art student Felix Blommestijn, and was immediately charmed and curious about this genre of ephemeral art.  Playing cards are very ancient, but it turns out that jokers are a fairly recent (later nineteenth century) American addition to the pack.  To me, these cards look both very modern and very old, my favorite aesthetic.

Another relatively recent addition to the standard card deck is the jack, which replaced the earlier knave. Knaves seem a little bit more intriguing to me, and there were all different kinds of them, depending on which country or “master” produced the cards.  Below are 15th and  early 16th century German knaves of the hares and acorns (Victoria & Albert Museum), followed by more familiar knaves of diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades from the early modern era:

Master of the PW, Cologne c. 1500

Early 17th Century Knave of Diamonds, Courtesy Trustees of the British Museum


Early 18th Century Knave of Hearts, Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum


A Knave of Clubs card from the era of the Scientific Revolution, Parsons Collection, NYPL Digital Gallery

Knave of Spades, c. 1827, Victoria & Albert Museum

 Once we get into the mid-nineteenth century, chromolithography, industrialization, and consumer demand combined to create infinite varieties of playing cards, many of which were marketed in series of collectible cigarette cards like the “beauties” below.  


Another development from the mid-nineteenth century were “dedicated deck” card games, and Salem’s own W. and S.B. Ives Company issued the first popular proprietary game in 1843,  Dr. Busby.  The Ives Brothers had a successful (multi-generational) printing, publishing, and stationary business in Salem and developed games as a sideline, but I think the sideline became the most profitable part of their business.  In addition to Dr. Busby, they also issued the first American board game in 1843, The Mansion of Happiness, and less than a decade later they came out with the very collectible tie-in card game to the recently-published abolitionist novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (which is no surprise, as Mrs. William Ives was the President of the very active Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society at the time).  In 1887 the Ives Company was sold to Parker Brother of Salem, and its games began reaching an even larger market.

Dr. Busby 1843 game box and Dr. Busby card; Uncle Tom’s Cabin cards from the University of Virginia’s Multimedia Archive:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture.

Even with industrialization, playing cards continued to be hand-produced as an art form rather than merely merchandise, just as they are today.  One of the most charming examples of vernacular production is the “Nursery Rhymes” suite, produced around 1880 by an unknown maker.  The Jack of Hearts is pictured below, just after he stole the tarts.



Demon-made Rum in Salem


It is no coincidence that in the 1830s and 1840s Massachusetts was both a leading producer of rum and an early center of the Temperance movement.  A third-generation Salem distiller named John Stone built our house in 1827, and 8 years later he found himself at the center of a storm whipped up by a pro-Temperance pastor named George Barrell Cheever, a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s at Bowdoin College who had recently taken up the pulpit at the Howard Street Congregationalist Church.  Cheever was a passionate Northern reformer, equally zealous about banning alcohol and slavery.  For both theological and moral reasons, he was also quite opposed to the Unitarian Church, which was very well established in Salem.  So John Stone was a perfect target:  not only was he Salem’s largest and wealthiest distiller, but he was Deacon John Stone of the Unitarian First Church in Salem.  An attack on him would be like killing two birds with one stone!

Reverend Cheever in the 1850s, NYPL Digital Gallery

a mid-nineteenth-century Tree of Temperance, producing all good things

In 1835 Cheever published an article in the religious newspaper The Salem Landmark entitled “Inquire at Amos Giles’ Distillery”  about an allegorical dream featuring a deacon/distiller, “a man who loved money, and was never troubled with tenderness of conscience”, whose employees were devils who manufactured not only rum (or “liquid damnation”) but also diseases, murder, insanity and all the evils of the world.  All hell broke out with the publication of this article:  Deacon Stone immediately recognized himself as Deacon Giles (Cheever had inserted many obvious clues in his “dream” story), his foreman attacked Cheever in the street, and a mob descended on the offices of the Salem Landmark.  Cheever was sued for libel, found guilty, and ordered to spend a month in jail (where Nathaniel Hawthorne apparently visited him) and pay a $1000 fine.  There was no sympathy in Salem for Cheever, who was referred to as the “Lord’s Annoited” by The Salem Gazette, but he moved on to bigger and better things: a new post in New York City and a national stage for his pro-temperance, anti-slavery advocacy.  His little story fled Salem as well, and was reprinted as a broadside and pamphlet in New York and elsewhere under variant titles of Deacon Giles’ Distillery.  


Scenes from “Deacon Giles”:  demons in the distillery & dispensing damnation, from Building the Nation:  Events in the History of the United States  from the Revolution to the Beginning of the War between the States, by Charles Carleton Coffin (1882)

And what role does our house play in this story?  Not much of one, except for the fact that we have lots and lots of storage compartments in the basement, including a “secret” one that actually extends under part of the street (or at least the sidewalk; I’ve never ventured into it–too scary).  All of this storage space could have been used for supplies and stores, as Deacon John Stone operated our house as a rooming house while he lived across the street, or just maybe it housed all that rum.

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