17 January 2011

Antislavery button

This daguerreotype with an abolitionist motif may be one of the first political buttons made in America to incorporate a photograph. Believed to be unique, the miniature daguerreotype shows two hands held together, one black, one white resting on a book assumed to be the Bible. The photograph is set into a two-piece gold-washed brass frame with a loop on the reverse for sewing to a garment...

The button was discovered in the early 1980s in a flea market in Massachusetts.
Like the piecework quilts made by women's antislavery societies, this button may have been produced to raise money for the abolitionist cause and sold at one of the popular antislavery fairs organized by women.
From the Metropolitan Museum, via A Polar Bear's Tale.


  1. I think the description of this image by the museum is entirely false. These are not the hands of two separate people. Look at them closely. This is a man's hands, a pair of one man's hands, holding a book (sure, a Bible perhaps). Imagine a man holding a book in front of him, his arms hanging relaxed, one hand over another comfortably.

    In photography, particularly black & white photography, light sources and strengths make quite a difference (look at the color differentiation in these hands - clearly belonging to one subject: http://figitalrevolution.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/hands_schaub.jpg). Lighting here also makes these hands (from one subject) appear different "colors": http://ih2.redbubble.net/work.782458.2.flat,550x550,075,f.sculpture-of-hands.jpg. It works in color as well as seen with these caucasian hands http://www.stdavidslakeland.com/Pictures/PrayerHands.jpg.

    Don't believe me? Check out this picture. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/John_Brown_daguerreotype_c1856.png With the Met's line of thinking, this is an image of two men, one black, and one white, merged into one. Works on black skin and white skin, oranges and apples, children and old people, animals, vegetables and minerals. http://rayamst312.umwblogs.org/files/2009/03/urn-3-fmuspeab.jpg

  2. I had the same thought, but didn't want to argue with the Met. Glad you took the time to do so.


  3. I was going to say, essentially and with fewer words, that same thing. They look like the same pair of hands to me also.


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