Untitled Image (Metal Face Mask)
This image shows a woman wearing a mask talking to a man who is wearing a leg chain and metal collar. According to Ewbank, "it is said slaves in masks are not so often encountered in the streets as formerly. . . I met but three or four, and in each case the sufferer was a female. The mask is the reputed ordinary punishment and preventative of drunkenness. . . the mask is to hinder him or her from conveying the liquor to the mouth. . . Except a projecting piece for the nose, the metal is simply bent cylinder-wise. Minute holes are punched to admit air to the nostrils, and similar ones in front of the eyes. A jointed strap (of metal) on each side goes round below the ears (sometimes two), and meets one that passes over the crown of the head. . . Most of the collars were of five-eighths inch round iron, some with one prong, others with two" (p. 437). Thomas Ewbank (1792–1870) was an English writer on practical mechanics. In 1845–1846, he travelled to Brazil and on his return published an account of his travels. He was then appointed United States Commissioner of Patents by President Taylor in 1849. The image is also on the Mary Evans Picture Gallery (London) website, but the location and date are erroneously given as British Guiana, 1886.
Thomas Ewbank, Life in Brazil (New York, 1856), p. 437. Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library.
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"Untitled Image (Metal Face Mask)", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed September 26, 2021, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2592