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Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Gift of Mrs. W. Fitch Ingersoll [58.4]

Slave Market, ca. 1850-1860. Oil on canvas, 29 3/4 x 39 1/2 inches.

Selling "Fancy Girls"

New Orleans and Lexington, Kentucky, had active markets in "fancy girls," beautiful young girls and women, often mulatto or quadroon, who were sold not as domestics but as concubines. They were presented at auction well dressed and coiffed, sometimes with jewelry. In the 1850s, beautiful teenage girls were valued at more than $1,500 (close to $30,000 in today's dollars), which made them as "expensive" as prime male field hands. Buying a "fancy girl" was a status symbol for traders, gamblers, and saloonkeepers. Because New Orleans attracted a large population of gamblers, debauchees and revelers for Carnival, it was the largest market for those girls and young women who were sent there from the Upper South.

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