The Ledger Polka


This lithograph from circa 1849 is the cover illustration to the sheet music “The Ledger Polka,” composed by Ja’s [James] Bellak and dedicated to the readers of the Public Ledger, a Philadelphia daily newspaper. The print shows a group of comically-portrayed men dressed in top hats and suits surrounding a man reading the Public Ledger. The group stands on the corner in front of the office of the newspaper, located at 300 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. (Newspaper operations were based out of this Chestnut Street office from 1840 to 1867.) Some of the audience look aghast, with mouths open in shock. Two boys, one a newsboy carrying the City Item, also listen with interest. In the doorway of the newspaper office are two gentlemen, probably representing two of the proprietors of the newspaper (William Swaim and Arunah S. Abell), who look on contentedly. The printer of this lithograph, Thomas S. Sinclair (circa 1805–81), was born in the Orkney Islands of Scotland and was active in Philadelphia by 1833, where he soon had his own business and was one of the first local printmakers to experiment with color lithography. A practical lithographer throughout his career, Sinclair produced all genres of lithographs, including maps, advertisements, city and landscape views, sheet music covers, portraiture, political cartoons, certificates, and book illustrations.

Last updated: January 9, 2018