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

Object Timeline

1936

  • We acquired this object.

2006

2014

2015

2019

  • You found it!

Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin, ca. 1870

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 Day 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, ca. 1870; 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 object may be subject to Copyright or other restrictions.

You are welcome to make fair use of this image under U.S. Copyright law and in compliance with our terms of use. Please note that you are responsible for determining whether your use is fair and for responding to any claims that may arise from your use.

For higher resolution or commercial use contact ArtResource.

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

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18343667/ |title=Handkerchief, Uncle Tom's Cabin, ca. 1870 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=17 January 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>