E. W. Clay began drawing this very popular series of cartoons in 1828, after he had seen George and Robert Cruikshank's Life in London drawings while on a trip to England. Their work featured the adventures of three uninhibited young men on the town; Clay's focused on social pretensions. Between 1828 and 1830 he produced 14 aquatint engravings for the series: 4 depicted whites; 10, including the seven available here, were caricatures of Philadelphia's free black population. The drawings were extremely popular; they were reproduced in a number of media, in more and less expensive forms, and were widely imitated by cartoonists in other cities, including New York and London. The comic image of the hyper-elegant urban black would soon become one of the two essential stereotypes of the minstrel stage.
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