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Print

Print

  • Date:

    1815 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Smith, John Thomas, born 1766 - died 1833 (etcher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching on paper

  • Museum number:

    29634:174

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case EE, shelf 183

Charles M'Gee was born in Jamaica in 1744. He was a sailor in the British navy, and after his discharge he settled in London, working as a crossing-sweeper at Ludgate Hill near St Paul's Cathedral. Crossing-sweepers kept areas of the streets clear of rubbish and horse manure. They earned their living from the tips given by those pedestrians who depended on the crossings to keep their shoes and clothes clean.

This print was published in Vagabondiana (1817), a collection of prints of well-known London beggars and street traders first published as a folio of prints in 1815-1817. The author and artist John Thomas Smith was particularly interested in life in London. Another of his works is The Cries of London, published in 1839, after his death. The 'Cries' were originally the calls of street traders and hawkers selling their wares. They became a rich source of inspiration for British musicians and artists, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries.Vagabondiana fits into this tradition, and the inclusion of real-life black personalities such as M'Gee reflects the historical presence of many black men among the London poor, and the fact that this was recognised in mainstream publications of the time.

Physical description

Print of a black man, Charles M'Gee, with white hair dressed in a coat and trousers carrying a broom and holding out his hat.

Date

1815 (made)

Artist/maker

Smith, John Thomas, born 1766 - died 1833 (etcher)

Materials and Techniques

Etching on paper

Marks and inscriptions

London Published as the Act directs December 1815 / by John Thomas Smith, No.4 Chandos Street Covent Garden

Descriptive line

Charles M'Gee, a black beggar, from Smith's Vagabondiana, 1815

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Smith, John Thomas. Vagabondiana; or, Anecdotes of mendicant wanderers through the streets of London; with portraits of the most remarkable, drawn from life. London, 1817. 52p, mounted front., illus., 32 pl. 36cm.
Gerzina, Gretchen. Black London : life before emancipation. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Labels and date

Charles McGee was a Jamaican-born crossing-sweeper who worked at Ludgate Hill, London. He was over seventy when this portrait was made in 1815. It was published in Vagabondia, a collection of prints of well-known London beggars and street traders. [October 2001]
Charles M'Gee was a Jamaican-born crossing-sweeper who worked at Ludgate Hill, London. Crossing-sweepers were employed to keep the street clear of rubbish for carriages and pedestrians.
This print was published in Vagabondiana, a collection of prints of well-known London beggars and travelling traders, published in 1817. Like Billy Waters, M'Gee was an ex-sailor and is mentioned in the book Life in London. [October 2002]

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Etching (printing process)

Subjects depicted

Beggars

Categories

Black History

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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