Sunday, November 13, 2011

The object of the day: Staffordshire figurine of Jim Crow

This rare Staffordshire figure portrays a perfomer in the role of Jim Crow, ca. 1830. Today the term "Jim Crow" has repugnant racial connotations, but in the 1830s Jim Crow was the talk of London.
Figures of Jim Crow are very rare. Staffordshire spelling was often erratic, but Jim was a contraction of James not in use in England at that time, and this probably accounts for the misspelling.
Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1806-1860) is the man who gave us Jim Crow. Born and raised in New York, Rice trained as a woodcarver but he preferred the life of an itinerant entertainer.
Rice performed his Jim Crow routine in blackface, thus creating a stereotype for black minstrelry that was to quickly become wildly popular.
Rice’s debut as Jim Crow at the Adelphi Theatre in London on 7 November 1836 was so successful that other plays were adapted to create a role for Jim Crow. Rice and Jim Crow became an international sensation and people of all classes capered to the ditty and printed images of Jim Crow proliferated.
Estimated prices can go up to 1500 pounds.

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