York, Pa., artist Horace Bonham, 1835-1892, was a Renaissance man – a lawyer, newspaper owner and man about town. But he’s best remembered today as a genre painter who captured routine events with his brush. And his work was unusual for its inclusion of diverse people. Background posts: A short test of your York black history knowledge – Part II, Exhibit captures decades-long flow of wide Susquehanna and Artist Jeff Koons came back to York for a show.
No one should believe that sponsored animal fighting – brought to the the limelight by Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick’s dogfighting travesty – is unusual in American history, as this Horace Bonham painting “Nearing the issue at the cockpit” suggests:
In plain view: An eclectic bunch brace for the outcome at a cockfight. York, Pa., historian Georg Sheets said some of the characters can be identified from Bonham’s East Market Street neighborhood. The well-dressed man at the left is Bonham in this self-portrait. (York banned animal fighting in 1883, according to Sheets.)
Behind the scene: Many iconic photos in this series will focus on major events in York County’s history. Bonham painted a moment in everyday life, a moment when men, irrespective of race and class, bond through sport. But this painting has been interpreted more broadly, as a political allegory. One view is that the inclusive group suggests the voting population of post-Civil War America. The subjects are watching the 1876 presidential fight between Tilden and Hayes. The Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., suggests that the diverse bunch links to the 1870 ratification of the 15th Amendment, guaranteeing the right to vote. An AP story on the painting also asserted that racial segregation, soon after the Civil War, was much less widespread than it became around turn-of-the-20th century America. The artist’s actual intention may never be known.
Further details: Horace Bonham home – the Bonham House – is one of the York County Heritage Trust’s www.yorkheritage.org sites. The house came under trust ownership after the death of Bonham’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth, in 1965. Two known “Cockpit” paintings are known to exist: One exhibited at the York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market St., and the other in the holdings of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Posts in this series:
- 400 years ago, John Smith explored Chesapeake Bay – 1/31 iconic images
- Declaration signer James Smith tops York County patriot list – 2/31 iconic images
- Going to market a longtime York County pastime – 3/31 iconic images
- William C. Goodridge: From slavery to success story – 4/31 iconic images
- Rebs’ short York visit creates long memories – 5/31 iconic images
-Artist Horace Bonham captured everyday life – 6/31 iconic images
-York County farm vs. factory tension relieved in overnight raid – 7/31 iconic images
- York County stood firmly behind Allies on all fronts in WW II – 8/31 iconic images
- Downtown thrived in post-WW II York – 9/31 iconic images
- After WWII success, Farquhar sells assets to out-of-town outfit – 10/31 iconic images.
- Sears, York County Shopping Center in the middle of things – 11/31 iconic images
- Three Mile Island emergency indelibly written into memories – 12/2 iconic images.
- People of varying religious groups founded York County – 13/31 iconic images
- President Reagan: ‘Harley is back and standing tall’ – 14/31 iconic images
- York’s mayor: ‘We are no longer unprotected’ – 15/31 iconic images
- Grange Hall represented past way of York County life – 16/31 iconic images.
- York County Honors Choir product of proud moment – 17/31 iconic images.
- Meeting of riot victims brought hope for racial accord – 18/31 iconic images.
- Property rights foundational factor in Lauxmont dispute – 19/31 iconic images.
- New baseball diamond serves as York cornerstone – 20/31 iconic images
- Season 2 of York’s campaign to come back – 21-23 of 31 iconic images
- York on knees as its men storm Normandy beaches – 24-25 of 31 iconic images
- One image illustrates two long-neglected subjects in York area – 26-27 of 31 iconic images
- Images explain changes in York County factories, farms – 28-29 of 31 iconic images
York County still home to unvarnished beauty – 30/31 iconic images
Latinos most recent migrant group to call York County home – 31/31 iconic images
To see the full series of iconic photos in a special York Daily Record/Sunday News publication, click here.