Road to Philadelphy


This circa 1830 print by Edward Williams Clay (1799–1857) caricatures the pretentiousness and prejudice of early 19th-century Philadelphia Quakers toward people they regarded as their social inferiors, but it also mocks those seeking to imitate the Quaker elite. On a Philadelphia road in front of a small house with an open picket fence and a visitor arriving on horseback, a raggedly dressed, dark-skinned traveler with buck teeth, possibly an Irishman or African American, asks a rotund Quaker man and his daughter, "I say, this isn't the road to Philadelphy, honey, is it?" The father responds indignantly to the "Friend," using the Quaker form of address, stating that of course it is the road and accusing the man of lying. Clay, a Philadelphia native, was the most prolific caricaturist of the Jacksonian era (about 1835–54). He was well known for his popular racist series, "Life in Philadelphia," published from 1828 until around 1830, which satirized upwardly mobile African Americans in Philadelphia for, as he saw it, ineptly attempting to imitate the white middle class.

Last updated: April 22, 2013