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Advertising poster for a theatrical production of Oliver Twist

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.95

Large, woodblock-printed advertising poster for a theatrical production of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” printed by Calhoun Printing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. The poster features three images, all based on the illustrations by George Cruikshank, which were originally published in the novel’s serialized form between 1837 and 1839. On the poster, Fagin is portrayed with a beard, thick eyebrows and a large nose; all stereotypical physical features attributed to Jewish men. In “Oliver Twist,” Fagin is the villainous leader of a gang of children whom he has instructed in the ways of criminality. He attempts to corrupt the protagonist, Oliver, in the same manner. In the novel, Fagin is described in his first scene as hunched over a fire holding a toasting fork. This imagery reinforces the antisemitic stereotype of Jewish associations with the devil, due to the toasting fork’s resemblance of a pitchfork. He is repeatedly referred to as “the Jew” in the book and also emphasized as a greedy, miserly, and cowardly character; all traits aligning with common antisemitic stereotypes. However, in a later edition of the novel, Dickens reduced his use of “the Jew,” substituting it for pronouns or other phrases. Even in this later version, Fagin is still repeatedly and negatively referred to as “the Jew,” and remains emblematic of multiple antisemitic canards. Later writings by Dickens portrayed Jews in a more positive light, however, the reprehensible Fagin is his most remembered Jewish character. This poster is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

Artwork Title
Oliver Twist
manufacture:  approximately 1880-1908
manufacture: Hartford (Conn.)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-04-01 12:48:05
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