Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Native American Chimney Sweep (Pennsylvania Gazette, 8-13-1788)

Israel Tallman embodied a unique racial dimension of early Philadelphia. The son of a white father and Native American mother, he was marked by a distinctly dark complexion and straight black hair. In the summer of 1788, he was serving an indenture with Richard Allen, who lived in Dock Street near the southeastern corner of the city proper. Tallmam was "by profession a chimney-sweeper." Cleaning the sooty chimneys of Philadelphia was one of the least desirable and most dangerous occupations in the city and often fell to those whose social level and race precluded other trades. John Lewis Krimmel illustrated this when he painted three African Americans around 1812 in "Worldly Folk Questioning Chimney Sweeps and Their Master Before Christ Church, Philadelphia."
Israel Tallmam's complexion set him apart and may even have determined his job prospects. It did not, however, prevent him from dressing to match the fashion of the sailors and laborers who gathered near the wharves of Philadelphia. His wardrobe was simple, but it would have helped him blend in on Dock Street. He wore a "short blue sailor jacket," probably a tail-less double-breasted garment, with black (possibly horn or cloth-covered) buttons. A white shirt, striped linen trousers, old shoes, and an aging "round" (uncocked) felt hat were his only other adornments. His clothing was probably soot-stained, but Tallmam might easily have found a berth on a merchant ship bound for the Indies. And he was already dressed for the part.

No comments:

Post a Comment