Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Will the real Paul Bogle please stand up?

Published:Tuesday | June 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM

By Ken Jones

It is now more than 50 years that we have been questioning the authenticity of our official image of Paul Bogle. Now it is being suggested that the picture of this national hero might be a true likeness of Thomas Jennings, who in 1821 was granted a United States patent for a form of dry-cleaning.

This would seem disturbing news, but with the information at my disposal, I am ready to come down on the side of Bogle; and as for Jennings, I am a doubting Thomas.

Right from the start we have accepted the fact that the original image is the tintype object which Bogle's grandnephew, Reuben Ewen, had handed over to W.G. Ogilvie of the Jamaica Historical Society and Tom McKay of UNESCO. That was in 1958. It should be noted that tintype photography was introduced by one Hamilton Smith in 1856, the very year that Thomas Jennings died.

It is hardly likely that Jennings would have posed for a tintype photo at that time; and even so, it takes no more than an elementary calculation to determine that at age 65, he would not look like the picture we claimed to be that of Paul Bogle.

If we accept that the garment worn in the picture was that of a deacon at the time, we must question whether Jennings was a deacon. There is no evidence that he was, and furthermore, I have seen another picture purporting to be Jennings', and it in no way resembles our impression of Bogle.

THE DUPERLY LEGACY

My research records persuade me that the tintype image of Bogle was probably taken by Adolphe Duperly or his son, Armand. Adolphe was a Frenchman who left Santo Domingo in 1824 to take up residence in Jamaica. He was Jamaica's first photographer, and worked at his profession along with his son until 1865 when he died. Duperly & Son first used the Daguerreotype technique, which preceded the tintype.

The Daguerre process involved the use of a coating of highly polished silver mounted on a sheet of copper. It was time-consuming work and carried a cost that peasants like Bogle would hardly be able to afford. Duperly did a lot of scenic recordings around the island, using Daguerre's system, but it was not until the 1860s that the taking of portraits became the main activity of the Duperly & Son studio.

By then the enthusiastic, enterprising Duperly might have brought the tintype method back to Jamaica after one of his many business trips abroad. It was in this period that he did a picture of George William Gordon. It is quite possible that he would then have known of Bogle, who was associated with Gordon, and also making a name for himself as leader of a peasant protest movement.

Some might argue that Duperly would still not have found it feasible to photograph an impecunious Bogle. But then, Duperly himself had known oppression before coming to Jamaica and his recorded work reflects an interest in popular protests. His collection includes images of the Sam Sharpe Christmas Rebellion of 1831 and the Emancipation celebrations in 1838. The Duperly & Son recordings concerning the Morant Bay Rebellion did not include a picture of Bogle, probably because that tintype image was already carefully hidden from the authorities by the Bogles.

Mysterious disappearance

Unfortunately, this vital piece of historical material mysteriously disappeared some time after being given to the Institute of Jamaica. It is not now available to tender in evidence. However, Mr Ogilvie, a respected author and one of the original writers for The Gleaner's now-defunct Pioneer Press, confirmed in writing that he had received the tintype of Bogle from Mr Ewen. Many years ago, Stanlie Parkins, former principal of Morant Bay High School, wrote that Ewen had shown him the picture on several occasions.

The noted historian/archaeologist, Ray Fremmer, who dug up the bones of Bogle in Morant Bay, also interviewed Ewen and in 1965 wrote: "One need only talk to Mr Ewen to be reassured that the 'picture on the $2 bill is indeed "that of Paul Bogle."

Ewen himself, born 1903, related that as a child he had heard about the picture that was kept secretly in a cedar box. It was in 1926 that his mother, Henrietta Henry, Bogle's niece, gave it to him as a treasured memento. He passed it to Ogilvie, who gave it to the institute in 1959 after it was published in The Gleaner.

So here we are with BET magazine publishing a copy of the said tintype and stating that it is a picture of Thomas L. Jennings. We have not been told about BET's source, but could that be a clue as to the missing tintype?

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