Eating Crow on a Wager: De Fust Brace

Thomas B. Worth American
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 shows caricatured Black (African American) men in an interior. At left, a rotund white-haired/white mustachioed chef (shown in profile) looks at a watch he holds in his left hand. He wears a large chef hat, a colorful yellow vest with a red pattern over his striped shirt, and a white apron over his dark green pants (with holes in his rear and at his knees). In the background, four men (each differently attired with singular hat styles) stand watching a portly man seated at a small white-cloth-covered table, upon which is set a large jug labeled "PEPSINE." The seated man is eating a bird held by both hands; his teeth are biting into the bird's carcass. He is dressed in a dark blue jacket with tails, light blue pants, a red/white striped vest (stretched over his big belly), and red/yellow socks and shoes. On the floor beside him is a plate of bones from the first crow he devoured; his black top hat is set on the floor beneath the table.The wager posted on the wall in the background (to left of center) reads: "GORILLA SAM,/BACKED TO EAT/A BRACE OF CROWS/DAILY FOR/30 DAYS." The print's title is imprinted in the bottom margin.

Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888), 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 (1824–1895), the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law, was made a business partner. Subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued via their successors until 1907. The artist of this print is Thomas Worth, a prolific nineteenth-century illustrator who excelled at drawing horses and other subjects, many of which were made into lithographs published by Currier & Ives; he also drew many of the Darktown images.

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