Broadside announcing a concert by the Hutchinson Family, founders of both popular and protest music in the United States
Broadside announcing a concert by the Hutchinson Family, founders of both popular and protest music in the United States

Broadside announcing a concert by the Hutchinson Family, founders of both popular and protest music in the United States

Portland, Maine: N. A. Foster, Printer, 1849. Unbound. This broadside measures approximately 7” x 11.25”. Clean with light wear and faint tape stains from mounting.

In this broadside, “The Hutchinson family, Judson, Abby, John and Asa Respectfully announce to the citizens of Portland and vicinity, that they will give a Vocal Entertainment, at the City Hall, on Saturday Evening, June 2, 1849.” The concert included two reform songs. Glide on my Light Canoe (The Indian’s Lament) castigates “whites” who “have driven us from our home [and] swept our friends away” while pledging that “The whites polluted feet shall ne’er tread upon my head [and that] I’ll not die the white man’s slave.” Uncle Sam’s Farm is a paean to open immigration. Free Soil, and westward expansion.

A short partially legible (thus somewhat confusing) paragraph is written on the reverse in pencil.by a concert attendee who may have enjoyed the’ music but was not an ardent abolitionist. It appears to read:

“Gen Sam’l Fessenden & wife attended accompanied by three ? Niggers. This valuable property acts entitled to more than ordinary care, was particular to arrange them on the right & left of Nimsey & wife ? ? them. The ? them ? ? value sequence & himself that aromatic flavor which is only equaled by the spicy ? that blom from Araby. . .." Very good. Item #009424

The Hutchinson Family was the most popular American singing group of the 1840s and took New England by storm with four-part harmonies in which they initially coupled original sentimental, comic, and dramatic lyrics to well-loved church hymns and minstrel songs.

When in 1842 their anti-drinking song, King Alcohol, became a hit with temperance audiences, they realized that there was money to be made in “reform” music and wholeheartedly embraced the “full-fledged commercialization of antislavery” with their rollicking anti-slavery anthem, Get Off the Track!, which was based on a blackface minstrel standard, Old Dan Tucker.

Abolitionists loved the Hutchinsons, filled their concerts, and bought their sheet music. More over not only did the Hutchinsons ensure that abolitionists knew they welcomed blacks to their performances, they begged abolitionists to bring blacks along when they attended concerts. In time, the family expanded its repertoire to include songs about promoting worker’s rights, women’s rights, immigration, and lamenting the treatment of American Indians. (See Gac’s Singing for Freedom: The Hutchinson Family Singers and the Nineteenth-Century and “American Protest Music: How The Hutchinson Family Singers Achieved Pop Stardom with an Anti-Slavery Anthem,” online at longreads.com).

Samuel Fessenden, a general in the state militia, was a rabid abolitionist and politician who “did all he could for the negro. . .. He received colored people at his house, visited them himself, and aided them in their attempts to attain position in society.” Additionally, he used his home as a waystation on the Underground Railroad. (See The New England Magazine, Vol 18; Vol 24. P 117 (1898) and Snodgrass’s The Underground Railroad: An Encyclopedia of People Places, and Operations.)

Scarce. As of 2020, no other examples of this broadside are for sale in the trade or held by institutions per OCLC. The Rare Book Hub lists only one auction result for a similar broadside in the past 50 years.

Price: $350.00

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