Black Portraits of White Americans

This silhouette portrait of Joseph Morgan, the proprietor of Morgan’s Coffee House, an important gathering place for Hartford businessmen in the early 19th century, was cut by Peter Choice, an itinerant silhouette artist who was probably of African descent. Choice also cut portraits of Morgan’s wife and two young daughters.  Choice was a man of many talents: barber, hairdresser, dentist, maker of shoe polish, mender of razors and pen knifes, as well as an artist who made cut paper and painted portraits.  He also offered to teach gentlemen’s servants the art of cutting hair.  Besides this information, gleaned from advertisements in the Hartford Courant, little is known about Choice’s life.  He was clearly an artist of great skill, and would be an interesting subject for further research.  Additional silhouettes from the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society may be viewed in the CHS online catalog.

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