A Darktown Law Suit--Cheerful Milker, "De Plaintiff has de head and de defendant de tail but I git de cream all de time."
John Cameron American, born Scotland
Publisher Currier & Ives American
Not on view
The late nineteenth-century Darktown prints by Currier & Ives depict racist stereotypes that are offensive and disturbing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art preserves such works to shed light on their historical context and to enable the study and evaluation of racism.
This print caricatures three Black (African American) men in a cow milking scene. Holding the cow's tail, one man --wearing a red shirt, blue pants, and a hat adorned with cows ears-- raises his left fist as he argues over the cow with a man (wearing a yellow shirt) at the other end holding one of the cow's horns. In the foreground, a kneeling man (dressed in a formal black suit and top hat) grips the cows udders as he squirts the milk into a bucket. A piece of paper imprinted "SKINNER/ATTY AT LAW" sticks out of his back pocktet. As the cheerful, milking attorney, he looks at the viewer and exclaims that he always gets the cream in dispute cases. The title and caption are imprinted in the bottom margin. At left, a calf stands behind a wooden rail fence and moos to its mother.
Nathaniel Currier, whose successful New York-based lithography firm began in 1835, produced thousands of prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. People eagerly acquired such lithographs featuring picturesque scenery, rural and city views, ships, railroads, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments. As the firm expanded, Nathaniel included his younger brother Charles in the business. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law) was made a business partner; subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued until 1907.