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Hell on Wheels
A Wonderfully Realized Allegorical Print
Americana/ Temperance Movement.
HANKS, S. W./ ACKERMANN, E./ CH. H. CROSBY [Boston, 1863]
Black Valley Railroad Great Central Through Route… Published By The American Seamen's Friend Society….
15 ¼ x 18 ¾ inches
Chromolithograph. Mounted on new linen but an excellent example.
Called by Peters "one of the best of the temperance prints," this animated work portrays alcoholism as a train hurtling through a darkly menacing American landscape while leaving many damaged souls in its wake. Pulled by a locomotive called Distillery and with a large saloon occupying one of the train's cars, its cleverly named stops include Deleriumton, Maniacville, Idiot Flats, Sippington, Woeland, and even a Vampireland along with many more. The text below the image explains in intricate and inventive detail the train/ alcoholism allegory. In all, a highly charged image of the dark side of America's rapid 19th-century expansion.
This became a very popular image that was promulgated in broadsides that adopted the central image but presented it in a vertical format. These are today more commonly seen on the market than issues on a horizontal format and printed on high-quality paper as here. The work was originally produced in Boston by Crosby & Company and issued by the Boston Temperance Alliance. In Chromo-Mania! it is noted that the same stone was used for an issue of it by the American Seaman's Friend Society "with different color inks and borders." Offered here is this edition.
Peters, H. T. America on Stone, pp. 71-2; Slautterback, C. (Boston Athenaeum) Chromo-Mania! The Art of Chromolithography in Boston, pp. 43-4
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