These colorful and expressive lithographs were printed and used between the 1880s and the 1920s to advertise "Tom Shows." Most were printed by companies like Donaldson's, which also designed and sold posters for circuses, other plays, vaudeville entertainments, minstrel shows and so on. The same posters were typically used by many Uncle Tom's Cabin Companies.
As images they express a number of things. Their standardization suggests, for example, how much of a franchise business Stowe's story had become (see TWO MARKSES). They also show how far "Tom Shows" had gotten from Stowe's original story: many of the characters and events that audiences were expected to recognize aren't in her novel at all.
The story told by these images has its own complexities. Comparing the posters prepared by the Erie Litho Company (from Pennsylvania) with those from Donaldson's Litho (in Kentucky) suggests at least two different dramatic "readings" were available, one considerably more racially and politically liberal than the other (see TWO TOMS).
You can see the posters in two ways. Clicking on the leftmost icon in each pair will bring up a mid-sized version accompanied by a descriptive caption. Clicking on the x2 icon brings up version large enough to show almost all the details.
Few of the posters are dated, but you can get an idea of the conventions of poster art between the 1870s and the end of the century from the examples included in H. C. Bunner's 1895 Scribner's Magazine article, American Posters, Past and Present.
The largest number of posters here are from the Harry Birdoff Collection at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford. The others are from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Harvard Theatre Collection, the Houghton Library; Special Collections, Univ. of Virginia Library; the Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis; the Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, the Ohio State University; the Library Company of Philadelphia; and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.