[Man Whittling a Stick]

Artist: Unknown (American)

Date: 1850–55

Medium: Daguerreotype

Dimensions: 8.3 x 7.0 cm (3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.481.1


The "wily Yankee" was a popular mid-nineteenth-century stage character from American regional theater. With tricks of cunning and an exaggerated costume (top hat, wide striped pants), this stock player became the visual prototype for America's "Uncle Sam." The motif of the whittler relates to the character's role. Between acts, the Yankee remained on stage, whittled, and told parables. At times, he also flirted with both the women and men in the audience as he suggestively carved a stick at his crotch.