The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Rev. Josiah Henson and Rev. John Lobb

Josiah Henson (1789-1883) was an author, abolitionist, and minister. Born into slavery in Maryland, he escaped to Ontario, Canada in 1830, and founded a settlement and labourer's school for other fugitive slaves at Dawn, near Dresden in Kent County. His autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849), is widely believed to have inspired the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Following the success of Stowe's novel, Henson issued an expanded version of his life story in 1858, Truth Stranger Than Fiction: Father Henson's Story of His Own Life (1858). Interest in his life continued, and nearly two decades later, his life story was updated and published as Uncle Tom's Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson (1876). He died at the age of 93 at Dresden on 5 May 1883.

In 1876 he visited England and on 5 March 1877 was received at Windsor by the Queen. The following day the Times reported ‘As previously arranged, the negro patriarch was accompanied by Mrs. Henson and by his friend, Mr. John Lobb. The party reached the Castle at 1, and were received by Sir T. M. Biddulph, K.C.B., who, after introducing them to Major-General H. Ponsonby, invited them to partake of luncheon. At 3 Her Majesty, accompanied by his Royal Highness Prince Leopold and her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice, appeared in the corridor leading to the Oak Room, attended by the Hon. Horatia Stopford and the Countess of Erroll, Ladies in Waiting. The Rev. Josiah Henson (“Uncle Tom”) was then presented to Her Majesty by Sir T.M. Biddulph. Her Majesty expressed pleasurable surprise at the coloured clergyman’s hale and hearty looks, considering his great age. He was born, it will be remembered, on June 15, 1789. Her Majesty was also pleased to say that for many years she had been well acquainted with his history, and to present him with her portrait. Mr. Henson thanked Her Majesty on his own behalf for the great honour conferred upon himself, as well as on behalf of his coloured brethren in Canada and other portions of Her Majesty’s dominions for her august protection when they were poor fugitive slaves, and for the unspeakable blessings they had at all times enjoyed under her rule. Mr. Lobb was then presented by Sir T.M. Biddulph to Her Majesty as the editor of Mr. Henson’s "Autobiography," a copy of which had been graciously accepted by Her Majesty, who was pleased to say that she had read it with much interest and pleasure. At Her Majesty’s gracious request the autographs of the Rev. Josiah Henson and Mr. J. Lobb, with the date of the birth of each, were then inscribed in Her Majesty’s private album.’

Photographed by the London School of Photography.

Code: 122000
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© Paul Frecker 2019