Rochester, New York: circa 1899. Single sheet, measuring 9.25 x 4 inches. Halftone image of the monument in Douglass Park above a printed quote by Douglass on recto; halftone portrait and text on verso. Edges lightly toned.
Original printed souvenir commemorating the 1899 unveiling of the monument to Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York: “the first public monument to an African American in the country” (O’Keefe). When Rochester’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument was erected in 1892, Douglass observed that African-American soldiers were omitted from the design. A local community leader, John W. Thompson, began fundraising for a monument to Rochester’s black soldiers, a project reimagined as a monument to Douglass after his burial in Rochester in 1895. Partly funded by the Haitian government, the statue by sculptor Sidney W. Edwards was dedicated in June of 1899, with Douglass’s widow and Theodore Roosevelt, then governor of New York, in attendance. Rochester was a fitting location for the Douglass landmark: the city was a critical stop on the Underground Railroad, and the home of Douglass’s anti-slavery newspaper The North Star. This commemorative card depicts an early design for the statue above a quote by Douglass: “Men do not live by bread alone; so with nations, they are not saved by art, but by honesty; not by gilded splendors of wealth, but by the hidden treasure of manly virtue; not by the multitudinous gratifications of the flesh, but by the celestial guidance of the spirit.” The image captures Douglass as the great orator, with one hand extended and the other holding a text to his chest: a stance that differs slightly from the final monument, in which Douglass has both hands extended. The likeness was based partly on photographs of Douglass and partly on his son, Charles Remond Douglass, the first African American to enlist in New York during the Civil War. The Rochester monument was considered important enough that W.E.B. DuBois recreated it, on a smaller scale, for his groundbreaking “Exhibit of American Negroes” at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. See Rose O’Keefe, Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester, New York. OCLC locates one institutional holding, at the University of Arizona. A fine survival.