Earthenware plate with engraved transfer of scene from Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" - 'Tom and Eva'



This plate is part of a group of four glazed Earthenware plates with engraved transfers of scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe's ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’. Published in 1853, the novel was extremely popular throughout the nineteenth century. It inspired various spin-off series, and it is broadly known for its antislavery themes. Subsequently, a great deal of visual material culture has been produced that depicts key scenes from the novel, including this series of plates. Scenes are bordered in a floral garland pattern, circa 1855-65. This plate, titled ‘Tom and Eva: Your Little Child is Your Only True Democrat’, depicts a key moment that reflects on the ways in which racism manifests in the American South in the novel. The plate shows Tom and Eva, the daughter of Augustine St. Clare who owned enslaved people including Tom, playing together. Ophelia St. Clare (Augustine’s cousin) is angered by the fact that Eva and Tom play together. Augustine uses this moment to highlight Ophelia’s hypocrisy. Not only is she angered by the interaction between Tom and Eva, but her antislavery values are deeply troubling and contradictory. For example, she wants to free enslaved people, but only under the condition that they are sent back to Africa for missionaries to reform. Here, we see the complex ways in which ideas surrounding abolition intersected with racism, generating problematic perspectives amongst supposed abolitionists. Eva is seen as the only ‘true democrat’ because of her genuine friendship with Tom. Scenes on other plates include: Poor Boy 'They Have Sold You' but Your Mother Will Save You Yet; Little Ava Converting Topsy; Eva Wreathing Tom.