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Catalog Data

George Kendall Warren, 1834 - 1884  Search this
Thomas Greene Wiggins, 25 May 1849 - 13 Jun 1908  Search this
Albumen silver print
Image: 11.5 x 9.1 cm (4 1/2 x 3 9/16")
Sheet: 14.7 x 10.2 cm (5 13/16 x 4")
Mount: 16.5 x 10.7 cm (6 1/2 x 4 3/16")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14")
c. 1882
Exhibition Label:
Born Harris County, Georgia
The musical prodigy Thomas Greene Wiggins— known as “Blind Tom”—was one of the most celebrated African American concert artists of the nineteenth century. Blind from birth and possibly autistic, Tom was only four when he began performing tunes he had heard played on the piano of the man who enslaved him, James Bethune. Tom made his professional debut as a pianist in 1857, at the age of eight, and was soon earning a fortune for Bethune with engagements throughout the country.
When the Civil War began, Tom was returned to Georgia and compelled to play benefit concerts for the Confederate cause. To protect his financial interest in Tom, Bethune obtained legal guardianship of the teenager. This effectively prevented him from ever securing his freedom. After the war, Tom continued his career, performing a demanding repertoire with skill “so startling as to amaze every listener.”
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Chair  Search this
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Table  Search this
Photographic format\Carte-de-visite  Search this
Interior\Studio\Photography  Search this
Thomas Greene Wiggins: Male  Search this
Thomas Greene Wiggins: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician  Search this
Thomas Greene Wiggins: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Composer  Search this
Thomas Greene Wiggins: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Pianist  Search this
Portrait  Search this
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
See more items in:
National Portrait Gallery Collection
American Origins
On View:
NPG, East Gallery 123
Data Source:
National Portrait Gallery