A scarce and highly evocative 19th-century broadside depicting the most notable entrepreneurs of the day. Composed and printed as a lithograph by the New York-based lithographers Buek & Lindner and subsequently published and distributed by Root & Tinker of Nassau Street, this 1882 broadside features ten emblazoned portraits of iconic American business tycoons. Starting in the middle of the top row and moving clockwise around the image, we find William H. Vanderbilt, Russell Sage, James R. Keene, August Belmont, Darius Ogden Mills, Jay Gould, Rufus Hatch, George W. Ballou, Sidney Dillon, and Cyrus W. Field.
The broadside was created as an advertisement for the Empire Refining Company, a large oil refinery based in New York with works both in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Long Island. In addition to their refineries, Empire had oil extraction interests all over the country. In August of 1883, a year after this broadside was issued, the refinery at Hunter’s Point was destroyed by an accidental fire.
Context is Everything
This broadside was published as part of a flurry of celebratory advertisements produced by Root and Tinker in 1882. In addition to our broadside, they also published a chromolithograph in sepia tones, in which the same ten business tycoons sit around a table in a prominent drawing-room under the portrait of Cornelius Vanderbilt. To underline the capitalist theme, the clock on the mantlepiece is crowned by a bull figurine and flanked by two chained bears.
Another reminiscent piece, also published by Root & Tinker in 1882, uses the same compositional mechanism of placing a series of portraits on a thematic background. In this case, the poster celebrates America’s most prominent newspapermen, but the concept is essentially the same as in our broadside.
The broadside appears to be quite rare, as we have not been able to identify any institutional holdings of it, nor have we been able to locate other examples of it on the market. While the OCLC has two records for the chromolithograph with the tycoons around the table listed (OCLC no. 1025360479; 1025435939), no institutional holdings are listed for this print either.