Item 18729 - Sugar cane harvesting in Cuba, 1873

Item 18729 - Sugar cane harvesting in Cuba, 1873
Contributed by Maine Historical Society
Item 18729
Sugar cane harvesting in Cuba, 1873
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Image Info

William F. Chadwick of Portland painted this scene of a sugar harvest in Cuba. He was the son of merchant Samuel Chadwick, and the family's Portland-based vessels are documented as having traded for molasses in Guadeloupe and Cuba.

Chadwick lived in Matanzas, Cuba from 1870 to 1876 and witnessed the brutal labor in the sugar cane fields. His idyllic painting of slavery in Cuba would have been a powerful propaganda tool for swaying public perceptions about the forced labor associated with sugar products.

Although the United States and Britain abolished their slave trades in 1807 and 1808, Cuba remained one of the most common destinations for slave ships through the 1860s. By 1850 the sugar industry accounted for four-fifths of all exports, and in 1860 Cuba produced nearly one-third of the world's sugar. Portland's first sugar house was opened in 1845 by JB Brown, and sugar processing continued to be a major industry in the city. Slavery continued legally in Cuba until 1886.

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