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Watch Meeting - Dec. 31st 1862 - Waiting for the Hour

This painting by W.T. Carlton, also known as William Tolman Carlton, captures the moments before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect at midnight on Thursday, January 1, 1863. A group of enslaved people surrounds a crate with an older man at the center holding a large pocket watch as the group counts down the remaining time till New Year's Day. The crowd of figures is illuminated only by a torch at the right edge of the canvas, beside which is a print of the Emancipation Proclamation posted to the wall. At left is a doorway, beyond which is an illuminated cross and, in the doorway, stands the silhouette of a figure holding the Union flag. There is one white woman present, sitting left of the center, looking toward the black woman beside her. Across the bottom, Carlton has inscribed the title of the painting on connecting links of a chain. The original painting was a gift to President Abraham Lincoln in July 1864 and left the White House with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln after his assassination. Its whereabouts are now unknown. The current version in the White House Collection is likely Carlton's first study and is not signed or dated and was acquired during the Richard M. Nixon administration. Carlton was born in Boston and spent much of his life in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
W. T. Carlton
Date of Work
oil paint
White House Collection/White House Historical Association