Media: Slideshow

Producing Sugar in the Caribbean

Holeing a Cane-Piece, on Weatherall's Estate, Antigua.

Enslaved men, women, and children dig holes and prepare the land before planting sugarcane on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. Manure from the cattle at left was placed in baskets and brought to the freshly dug holes to be used as fertilizer for the sugarcane. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). Preparing the soil was "the most laborious occupation of the Negroes," according to the artist's caption, and on this particular occasion the slaves were given "an extra allowance of rum, with a plentiful supply of sugar and water." 

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate II

Planting the Sugar-Cane

Enslaved men, women, and children plant sugarcane on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). The artist described this part of the process:

The younger Negroes distribute two or three plants into each Cane-hole, while the most experienced Negroes open cavities in the holes about six inches deep, place the plants horizontally, so that the buds may appear on either side, and cover them. This process requires great attention on the part of the Negroes who are thus intrusted [sic].

The man in the foreground with a whip is one of the local field "drivers"; the overseers, meanwhile, remain in the boiling-house, or distillery where sugar and rum production take place. Monk's Hill, a military fort, sits atop the hill in the background. 

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate III

Cutting the Sugar-Cane

Enslaved workers cut sugarcane on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). According to the artist, sugarcane required eleven or twelve months before it was ready to be harvested. The green tops were cut off and used as food for the cattle; the cane was then cut into lengths of about three feet, tied into bundles, and brought by wagon to the mill for processing. The mill is visible in the distant background at right.

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate IV

A Mill Yard

Bundles of sugarcane are unloaded from carts at a sugar mill on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). According to the artist, young enslaved women and elderly slaves did much of the work in this part of the production process. He writes, "The bundles of Cane are carted and deposited as near as possible to the Mill, to lessen the labour of the Negro-girls, who convey them on their heads to the mill-door ..."  Slaves then fed the cane into the mill, which pressed out the juice from the plant. The expressed liquid then ran through a tube to the boiling-house. The refuse left behind was "conveyed away upon wooden frames by women, and the old Negroes, spread and turn it in the sun to be afterwards used for fuel."

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VI

Interior of a Boiling-House

Enslaved men and women work inside a sugar plantation's boiling-house, or where the juice from crushed sugarcane is boiled in a series of copper pots, some of which hold 600 gallons. Impurities are continually skimmed off the surface, and eventually much of the liquid evaporates. The caption for the image describes what happens next:

The fire is stopped, the sugar is then ladled into a spout which conducts it to a cooler, where it is lightly agitated on its surface with a kind of spatula, three or four times, till the whole mass is crystallized … The wind which blows with little variation between N.E. and S.E. enters at the windows, cools the sugar, and expels the steam through the apertures in the roof.

The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VI

Exterior of the Boiling-House.

Fires glow from inside the factory where sugarcane is being boiled in copper stills and processed into sugar. Enslaved men and women are shown here dragging fuel to the fires that require a constant heat. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). In the caption for this image Clark writes, "The boiling in good seasons is continued during the night; and as the consumption of fuel is great, Cattle and Negroes are fully employed in procuring the fuel and placing it at a distance, whence it is conveyed in small quantities to the respective firemen …"

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VII

Exterior of a Distillery.

Hogsheads, or large casks, full of sugar and rum are rolled out of a building that serves as both a distillery and a curing-house in Antigua. Sugar and rum production was a multi-stepped process. Sugarcane juice was boiled in a series of copper kettles until it turned into syrup; it was then cooled until it formed sugar crystals and molasses. The sugar was placed in hogsheads and cured for five or six weeks before being closed, branded with the mark of the owner, and then shipped. The molasses was placed in casks, allowed to ferment, and then distilled into rum. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VIII

Interior of a Distillery

Enslaved workers, including a young boy, work in bare feet inside a distillery in Antigua that produces rum from sugarcane. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate IX

Shipping Sugar

Slaves arduously load hogsheads, or barrels, filled with sugar onto a small boat called a droger to be transported to the larger ships sitting in the English harbor of Saint John's in Antigua. William Clark, the artist who created this aquatint, described the process of transporting the barrels:

The small vessels used to convey the Hogsheads … are brought to the proper depth of water, and are forced down one side; two spars or skids are then extended from the gunwhales to the shore, on which the hogsheads are rolled into the boat, at the recoil of the wave: much dexterity is necessary to accomplish this without shipping water with the sugar … [The] Sugar is then shipped for England, a voyage of uncertain duration, usually made in four weeks; but too often occupying two months, from the Captains being compelled to cross the Atlantic under the disadvantages of varying winds.

Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

Original Author: William Clark

Created: 1823

Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate X

Zoom In
  • Holeing a Cane-Piece, on Weatherall's Estate, Antigua.

    Enslaved men, women, and children dig holes and prepare the land before planting sugarcane on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. Manure from the cattle at left was placed in baskets and brought to the freshly dug holes to be used as fertilizer for the sugarcane. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). Preparing the soil was "the most laborious occupation of the Negroes," according to the artist's caption, and on this particular occasion the slaves were given "an extra allowance of rum, with a plentiful supply of sugar and water." 

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate II

  • Planting the Sugar-Cane

    Enslaved men, women, and children plant sugarcane on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). The artist described this part of the process:

    The younger Negroes distribute two or three plants into each Cane-hole, while the most experienced Negroes open cavities in the holes about six inches deep, place the plants horizontally, so that the buds may appear on either side, and cover them. This process requires great attention on the part of the Negroes who are thus intrusted [sic].

    The man in the foreground with a whip is one of the local field "drivers"; the overseers, meanwhile, remain in the boiling-house, or distillery where sugar and rum production take place. Monk's Hill, a military fort, sits atop the hill in the background. 

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate III

  • Cutting the Sugar-Cane

    Enslaved workers cut sugarcane on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). According to the artist, sugarcane required eleven or twelve months before it was ready to be harvested. The green tops were cut off and used as food for the cattle; the cane was then cut into lengths of about three feet, tied into bundles, and brought by wagon to the mill for processing. The mill is visible in the distant background at right.

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate IV

  • A Mill Yard

    Bundles of sugarcane are unloaded from carts at a sugar mill on an estate in Antigua, an English colony in the West Indies. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). According to the artist, young enslaved women and elderly slaves did much of the work in this part of the production process. He writes, "The bundles of Cane are carted and deposited as near as possible to the Mill, to lessen the labour of the Negro-girls, who convey them on their heads to the mill-door ..."  Slaves then fed the cane into the mill, which pressed out the juice from the plant. The expressed liquid then ran through a tube to the boiling-house. The refuse left behind was "conveyed away upon wooden frames by women, and the old Negroes, spread and turn it in the sun to be afterwards used for fuel."

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VI

  • Interior of a Boiling-House

    Enslaved men and women work inside a sugar plantation's boiling-house, or where the juice from crushed sugarcane is boiled in a series of copper pots, some of which hold 600 gallons. Impurities are continually skimmed off the surface, and eventually much of the liquid evaporates. The caption for the image describes what happens next:

    The fire is stopped, the sugar is then ladled into a spout which conducts it to a cooler, where it is lightly agitated on its surface with a kind of spatula, three or four times, till the whole mass is crystallized … The wind which blows with little variation between N.E. and S.E. enters at the windows, cools the sugar, and expels the steam through the apertures in the roof.

    The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VI

  • Exterior of the Boiling-House.

    Fires glow from inside the factory where sugarcane is being boiled in copper stills and processed into sugar. Enslaved men and women are shown here dragging fuel to the fires that require a constant heat. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823). In the caption for this image Clark writes, "The boiling in good seasons is continued during the night; and as the consumption of fuel is great, Cattle and Negroes are fully employed in procuring the fuel and placing it at a distance, whence it is conveyed in small quantities to the respective firemen …"

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VII

  • Exterior of a Distillery.

    Hogsheads, or large casks, full of sugar and rum are rolled out of a building that serves as both a distillery and a curing-house in Antigua. Sugar and rum production was a multi-stepped process. Sugarcane juice was boiled in a series of copper kettles until it turned into syrup; it was then cooled until it formed sugar crystals and molasses. The sugar was placed in hogsheads and cured for five or six weeks before being closed, branded with the mark of the owner, and then shipped. The molasses was placed in casks, allowed to ferment, and then distilled into rum. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate VIII

  • Interior of a Distillery

    Enslaved workers, including a young boy, work in bare feet inside a distillery in Antigua that produces rum from sugarcane. The artist William Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate IX

  • Shipping Sugar

    Slaves arduously load hogsheads, or barrels, filled with sugar onto a small boat called a droger to be transported to the larger ships sitting in the English harbor of Saint John's in Antigua. William Clark, the artist who created this aquatint, described the process of transporting the barrels:

    The small vessels used to convey the Hogsheads … are brought to the proper depth of water, and are forced down one side; two spars or skids are then extended from the gunwhales to the shore, on which the hogsheads are rolled into the boat, at the recoil of the wave: much dexterity is necessary to accomplish this without shipping water with the sugar … [The] Sugar is then shipped for England, a voyage of uncertain duration, usually made in four weeks; but too often occupying two months, from the Captains being compelled to cross the Atlantic under the disadvantages of varying winds.

    Clark resided in the West Indies for three years and drew scenes of the sugar-production process that were published in Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in Which Are Represented the Process of Sugar Making, and the Employment of the Negroes in the Field, Boiling-House, and Distillery (1823).

    Original Author: William Clark

    Created: 1823

    Medium: Hand-colored aquatint

    Courtesy of British Library, Acc. #1786.c.9, plate X