18th Century Convicts Marched from Newgate to the Port

Convicts made up one of the significant immigrant populations to the American colonies in the eighteenth century. But try locating an image that says “convict” if you are preparing a presentation. This image from The Newgate Calendar, a tabloid-like publication about the goings on (read: executions and the like) at Newgate Prison, fit the bill. It depicts a crop of London criminals, convicted to Transportation, being walked through the streets on their way to ships bound for the American mid-Atlantic.

It was only when I enlarged it on the screen during a rehearsal for my talk at Williamsburg that I saw even more detail. The procession is shackled together at their necks and arms. The women, in whom I’m most interested, stand toward the back of the procession, or the left of the image. The artist depicted the defiant nature of one woman by having her assume an “arms akimbo” stance, with her hand on her hip. A possibly more repentant woman weeps into her apron.

Anybody have to work this weekend?

London Metropolitan Archive Bridgeman Art Library.

The Newgate Calendar. Public Domain. 

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.