A Garbage Can or a Museum


A dear friend gave me this identified photo.  It’s on very thin paper and is fragile and torn.  It was meant to be affixed to a heavier cabinet photo board.  By the looks of the residue on the reverse it might have been at one time. bimg555

The image is dated 1899 and the sitter’s names are listed as “Bertha Freeman Urquhart & son Robert F. Urquhart & grandad Fred Freeman.”

Bertha was married to Robert Urquhart Jr. on April 30, 1899, in Boston, Massachusetts.  Six months later, on October 3, 1899, the couple welcomed a son, Robert Freeman Urquhart.  By 1910 the little family relocated to Barrington, Rhode Island.

In 1954 Bertha was widowed and living at 114 Alfred Downe in Barrington.  Her son Robert and his wife Marion were living with her in 1950 but were no longer listed at the same address by that time.  This is the last trace of Bertha.


As far as grandad Fred Freeman goes, if this is indeed Bertha’s father, he looks much older than his 58 years. I wondered if the person who penned the writing was confused and the man in the photo was Bertha’s grandad Adoniram (A.J.) Freeman.  A.J., a shoemaker like his son Fred, would have been 84 at the time.  That theory was squashed when I found out A.J. died in 1893, some six years before this image was captured.

As I studied the pictures on the wall, the calendar, the lilies, and all of the knickknacks on the mantle, I spotted the racist caricature behind Fred.  Please take a moment to educate yourself about anti-black imagery.  You might want to read The Jim Crow Museum’s piece on “The Tom Caricature.”  And thank you to a reader who shared this video from The Jim Crow Museum.  Warning to Black readers, the video contains violent racist images.

David Pilgrim, a Black man, is the founder and curator of the collection housed at the museum.  He says that most of the objects “are anti-black caricatures, everyday objects or they are segregationist memorabilia,” and that because they represent a cruel, inflammatory past, they “should either be in a garbage can or a museum.”  I agree.

Census records
Find a Grave

4 thoughts on “A Garbage Can or a Museum

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