Images of Men in Godey's Lady's Book

In the thirty-six issues of Godey's Lady's Book that were published between July 1855 to December 1858 (excluding July to December 1856, which was unavailable) images of men appear in the engravings and illustrations a total of thirty-four times, slightly less than once per issue. Even if we do not consider the images of women that are included strictly to model current fashions, this number is still less than half of the number of women depicted. These depictions of men fall into several categories. One third of the images are small illustrations to non-fiction articles that describe manufacturing processes or are travel guides to foreign lands. For example, there are images of men working in a needle factory and a type foundry. The remainder of the men in this type of picture are non-Americans: small images of monks in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, men in Jerusalem, hunters in the Arctic, and a Bokharan man shearing a camel. Two full page illustrations relate to the death of the explorer, Dr. Kane. One of these shows ladies and gentlemen attending his lying in state. An additional three sets of images are small silhouettes illustrating various charades.

Odd Men Out

Godey's has very few caricatures. Two of these appear as half-page sketches titled City Nuisances in the September and October 1855 issues. They appear in the "Godey's Arm Chair" section, Mr. Godey often reserving for himself the humorous criticism of his fellow citizens. In both cases they depict two women in a street scene being annoyed by men who are acting in an inconsiderate manner. In one case the men are smoking cigars and in the other they are clamoring for an omnibus. Lest the point be missed a short description is given of each.

Two wood engravings, appearing in August 1855 and November 1857 respectively, are quite different from any other image in the Book. The first is a poorly dressed organ grinder playing for a group of shabbily dressed children. The second, titled "Learning to Write" is that of a man and child. The child is barefoot but holds a book and is pointing to an upright board upon which the man is writing, with chalk. The name J. Smith appears written on the board and he is copying it. Given the unformed nature of the letters, we can assume that the child is teaching the man to write. He is wearing a rumpled shirt with slightly high pointed collar, waistcoat and gaiters, suggesting an earlier time period. However, the child, though barefoot, is dressed in mid-century clothing. It appears to be a girl, based on the length and fullness of the skirt, the low neckline of the dress, the length and dressing of the hair, and the slimness of her ankle (boys generally being depicted with a stockier build). The figures are sitting amidst a pile of baskets, a wooden barrel and bucket, an overturned stool, and a large broom, suggesting a junkyard or storage area. These images are quite different from the other images in Godey's both for their suggestion of a poorer class of people and for their possibly urban setting. Both are engraved by W. H. Van-Ingen, who does not appear to have been a regular contributor of engravings to the Book.

Society and Religion

There is only one engraving that shows a large company of middle or upper class people, and one that is overtly religious. The first, appropriate considering its inclusion in the December 1855 issue, is the scene of a large Christmas party. Over one hundred figures, most of them children, surround the Christmas tree that dominates the center of the plate. The illustration is similar to many English illustrations of the period and is quite possibly English in origin. Although accompanied by a half-page article describing the history of the Christmas tree, emphasizing the Roman holiday, Saturnalia, and German pagan traditions, there is no direct discussion of this particular plate. Even Mr. Godey is silent on the subject.

He is not so reticent on the plate titled "The Miracles" that opens the October 1858 issue:

A series of Scripture subjects, from the cartoons of Raphael. We believe this is the first time these celebrated cartoons have ever been published in one picture; and our readers have here, at one view, the celebrated "Miracles," copied from the originals, at Hampton Court, England. . .We think this one of the finest plates we have given this year ."
Generations Past

Four of the steel engravings contain images of elderly men. One is identified as a grandfather showing a watch to his young grandchild. What is not mentioned is that this engraving is the duplicate of one published in the English Casell's Paper that same year and that it is based on a painting by Walter Goodall. Regradless of its origin, or even of the original intent of the artist, Virginia De Forrest is happy to provide for the readers a story that illustrates the illustration. In her usual spirited but straightforward style it's five columns contain four generations, a runaway love match, the Revolutionary War, a hero's death on Bunker Hill, a burned home, a shipwreck, grinding poverty, and a rich reunion.

No accompanying story is provided for a tinted engraving of another elderly man that appears in the February issue of that same year. This shabbily dressed one-legged man is identified as a Revolutionary War veteran shares the scene with a young boy, each saluting the other, with the title "Old and Young America.". Another elderly gentleman appears in the engraving titled "Man from First to Last Requires Assistance." This gentleman, like the other figures in the image, is dressed in late eighteenth century clothing. The scene is in front of a cottage. A woman is holding the hand of a toddler while another woman reaches for the child. An older child clings to this woman. The elderly gentleman, leaning on two canes, in the shadow of the porch. Godey comments on this engraving by saying:

"Here the child doth put
His budding courage to the proof; and here
Declining manhood learns to note the sly
And sure encroachments of infirmity--
Thinking how fast time runs, lifes end how near."

The last elderly man is in a family group of a father, mother, and children titled "Worship in the Wilderness." The father is dressed in buckskins, carrying a child and a rifle. The mother is simply dressed and carries an infant. She appears to be pregnant, making this the only image of a pregnant woman I have yet to find in Godey's. This and another image discussed later that shows a man reading a Bible, are the only images that show people engaging, or, as in this case about to engage in, any religious activity. Together with the "Miracles" engraving they still add up to a paucity of religious images in the Book. As is often the case, Godey comments on the engraving in his "Arm Chair" section, in this case saying:

Our July number--"Worship in the Wilderness," designed expressly for Godey by Rothermal, the original picture being in our possession. This plate, representing what our hardy pioneers had to undergo in endeavoring to raise a church in the wilderness, will, we are sure, please our subscribers."

Fathers, Husbands, Suitors--But No Brothers (perhaps)

The remainder of the plates contain images of fathers and young men, generally of the middle class or the class that made up the Book's audience. Images of fathers are varied, both in age and in relationship to their children. The earliest of this set appears in September 1855, accompanied by a story title "Anna, or Cottage Devotion" by Virginia De Forest, a recurring contributor to the magazine. Even without the title the setting of a cottage is strikingly apparent. In a small low-ceilinged room (possibly with a thatched roof) filled with tools of daily rural life, including a spinning wheel, and cooking implements hanging on the walls, a group of people are clustered about a table. They include an older gentleman reading from a large book, an older woman stifling a yawn, a servant standing behind her, two young women seated opposite the father, and a boy sitting under the table and holding a puppy next to two dogs. We learn from the accompanying story that Anna, the farmer's daughter has recently been walking out in the evenings to meet a young man from the city. He convinces her that she should elope with him as he feels her father will not approve her marriage, being distrustful of city lads. She consents to go with him but changes her mind later that evening when her father reads a passage from the Bible that reminds children to honor their parents. We soon learn that the young man does not really care for her and is later arrested for forgery. We also learn that the father had overheard the clandestine lovers' plan and read the passage in the hope of convincing his daughter not to leave.

In striking contrast to this father whose loving concern for his daughter still allows room for him to suggest but not coerce is the plate of a father and daughter that appears in the next issue, October 1855. Titled "Cromwell's Last Interview with his Favorite Daughter" it shows the Protector's daughter lying propped on her deathbed, her weak frame supported by pillows, one finger raised in either admonishment or benediction. From the expression on Cromwell's face it is difficult to tell. Clearly he is not content as he clutches his brow in his hand, his face averted from hers. According to the half-column description that accompanies the plate, his daughter "feeling the near approach of death, and assuming the privilege of the dying. . .spoke in very strong terms of the Protector's career, and even urged the restoration of Charles the Second, whom she regarded as the lawful sovereign of the realm." Apparently Cromwell did not heed her advice and died a month later, whether from remorse, guilt, or from some other cause is not clear.

List of images of men

Godey's Lady's Book: Samples Collection
Created and copyright by Hope Greenberg. Created/updated: March 1995/September 2001.