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"Ye Boston Baked Beans" trade sign

Object Name: Genre
Date: 1886
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Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 28 1/4 x 36 in. ( 71.8 x 91.4 cm )
Place made, probably: New Bedford
Credit Line: Purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937
Object Number: 1937.459
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Inscribed: "H. E. Covill. 86" painted in red in lower right corner.

Gallery Label:

This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman's collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.

In the foreground of this amusing advertisement, the American folk figure, Uncle Sam, drives a carriage pulled by a fanciful white swine. The buckboard transports a huge steaming pot of beans. The origin of baked beans may be traced to the pre-colonial period, when settlers adopted the Native American practice of cooking dry beans in pots with maple syrup. The archaizing “YE” in the advertisement’s title was meant to connote the antiquity of this traditional dish and to underscore the humor of the scene.

The "H.E. Covill" who signed and dated this painting is probably Herbert Eugene Covill (1854-after 1930), a carriage trimmer working in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Covill depicted a dry goods establishment with the sign of "P. H. Miller," possibly a reference to Peter H. Miller, a New Bedford rope maker. The shop at left advertising oysters and fish confirms that the town depicted by Covill is a seaside location.


The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman, Riverdale, NY


"Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman," Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, NM, September 6–November 29, 2015; New-York Historical Society, May 20–August 21, 2016; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, September 17–December 31, 2016.