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Thomas Waterman Wood frequently painted African American subjects in Baltimore, Maryland, a city strongly divided between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces. This painting depicts the freed slave Moses Small, who was a well-known Baltimore newspaper vendor. Dressed in elegant but worn attire, Moses holds a stack of Baltimore Patriot newspapers in his left arm as he tips his hat to greet the next customer.

When exhibited in 1858 at the National Academy of Design in New York City, this painting was mistakenly sold to two people. The resulting lawsuit awarded it to John C. Brune of Baltimore; subsequently the losing party, Robert L. Stuart of New York, commissioned a copy. For these patrons, both wealthy sugar refiners, Moses may have symbolized the virtues of capitalism, which provided economic opportunities for many Americans. However, the selling of newspapers was one of a limited number of jobs available to free blacks in the pre–Civil War era.

Details

  • Title: Moses, The Baltimore News Vendor
  • Creator: Thomas Waterman Wood (1823–1903)
  • Date Created: 1858
  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Physical Dimensions: 24 1/8 x 15 in. (61.3 x 38.1 cm)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: FAMSF, Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1944.7
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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