In the intervening week or so since my post on this mysterious image appeared on the AAS blog, I contacted Alexander Anderson scholar and AAS member Jane Pomeroy. She graciously sent me this scanned copy of the full image found in her copy of the Mahlon Day 1830 edition of Divine Songs.
According to Jane, she thinks it is quite possible that the image was directly commissioned by Mahlon Day either in 1830, or right around that time. Jane guesses that the man standing with what could be money or a pile of tracts in his hand is an employee of the house and that the mother with baby and son are needy, but not indigent. Jane brings up the good point that the man in the doorway is not particularly well dressed, and his hat is literally jammed on his head. Jane also thinks it is possible that the coach in the street (better revealed in her copy) carried the woman to the house. We both agree that the scene seems to be set in New York during winter, perhaps Christmas time, and that the object of the image seems to be the importance of providing spiritual/corporal aid to those in need. Finally, Jane’s copy of the image has the telling caption lacking in the imperfect AAS copy:
I have food whole others starve, Or beg from door to door.
Unfortunately, the identity of the engraver is still ambiguous; this image is not among those found in the Alexander Anderson engraving proof books held at New York Public Library. But with Jane’s input, we have a better idea of the image’s meaning.
If you are interested in learning more about the illustrations that we do know were done by Alexander Anderson, you will definitely want to get your hands on this three volume set.
Pomeroy, Jane R. Alexander Anderson, 1775-1870, Wood Engraver and Illustrator, an Annotated Bibliography. 3 Volumes. New Castle, DE and Worcester, MA: Oak Knoll Press and The American Antiquarian Society, 2005. [available for purchase from Oak Knoll]