There are 2 other images of this object. This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions), and as such we offer a high-resolution image of it. See our image rights statement.


See more objects with the color dimgrey darkolivegreen darkslategrey lightgrey or see all the colors for this object.

Object Timeline


  • We acquired this object.





  • You found it!

Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin

This is a Handkerchief. It is dated ca. 1870 and we acquired it in 1936. Its medium is cotton and its technique is printed by engraved roller on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is considered to be history’s first blockbuster. Capitalizing on the deep feelings and unprecedented sales generated by the book, marketers created and sold objects for profit that evoked the emotional experience of the book. ln an era when spin-off products were unheard of, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became a massive cultural industry, spawning a dizzying explosion of Tom-themed merchandise in every imaginable form. Known in their day as “Tomitudes,” these commodities transformed the drama of the novel into goods that could be part of the reader’s daily lives
Machine-printed handkerchiefs such as this example provided a fashionable and affordable talisman through which readers could publically demonstrate their sympathy for the plight of Southern slaves. The images on the textile, drawn directly from Hammatt Billing’s original illustrations for the novel’s lavishly bound Christmas edition of 1853, can be read as reenacting the sentiment at the heart of Stowe’s storyline.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Tomitudes.

This object was donated by Spencer Bickerton. It is credited Gift of Spencer Bickerton.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 41 x 48 cm (16 1/8 x 18 7/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin; USA; cotton; H x W: 41 x 48 cm (16 1/8 x 18 7/8 in.); Gift of Spencer Bickerton; 1936-55-1

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=31 January 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>