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Friendship in Pictures

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The Prints and Photographs Division’s Popular Graphic Art (PGA) Collection is a rich resource for nineteenth-century portraits, views of cities and landscapes, and interpretations of historical events. It is also a great source of pictures that were designed to serve educational purposes and reflect particular values and tastes. I came across several PGA prints that emphasize the value of friendship.

Parents of small children might appreciate the focus on sharing in the image below, called “Partners”– even if it appears that candy is the commodity.

Partners, 1884. Engraved by G.J. Stodart and based on a painting by G.B. O’Neill.

The ailing man in the picture below seems cheered by the kindness of his friend, who appears to be preparing tea and encouraging him with lively conversation, or perhaps through scripture.

Friend in adversity, between between 1843 and 1852. Engraved by H.S. Sadd N.Y. and based on a painting by E. Prentis.

Some organizations recognized the importance of camaraderie in their mottos. The Ancient Order of Hibernians of America, an Irish American benevolent association and political club, included the phrase “Friendship, unity and true Christian charity” on its membership certificates. The Knights of Pythias, the first fraternal organization given a charter by the U.S. Congress, also emphasized friendship, along with charity and benevolence.

Friendship, unity and true Christian charity–Ancient Order of Hibernians of America, Certificate of membership, 1894. Lithograph by Pilot Publishing Co.
Knights of Pythias, to all whom it may concern. Know ye that the Supreme Lodge of the World hereby issues this memorial chart …, 1875. Lithograph by T. Hunter and based on work by James Fuller Queen.

In addition to defining ideal behavior in personal relationships, popular prints celebrated cooperation across national boundaries. This print acknowledges how Great Britain and the United States worked together to lay telegraph cable between Newfoundland and Valentia Bay. The ships that lay the cable, Niagara and Agamemnon, are visible in the background of the image.

The laying of the cable—John and Jonathan joining hands, 1858. Woodcut with letterpress by Baker & Godwin.

Late July and early August mark Friendship Day, a holiday at least nominally recognized by a variety of countries and by the United Nations. As in the case of a great number of holidays, the creation of Friendship Day can be traced in part to the efforts of the greeting card industry. Like greeting cards, many of the Popular Graphic Art Collection prints were commercially available and often widely distributed, carrying messages their creators felt worth sharing for a minimal cost.

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  1. You can’t always pick your families but in.
    Sometime your friend’s become your La Familia.
    Over this means more like families than other.

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