Thomas Sully (American, b. England, 1783-1872)
Sally Etting, 1808
- Oil on canvas
- 30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Gift of William Wollman Foundation, F 4610
Sally Etting (1776–1863) was born in York, Pennsylvania, to a family that would maintain civic and social prominence for generations. Her father, Elijah Etting, arrived in the United States from Germany in 1758. He traded with Native Americans and was a supplier to the Revolutionary army. He died when Sally was a child, and she and her four young siblings subsequently moved to Baltimore with their mother, Shina Solomon Etting (1744–1822).
Sally’s portrait may have been commissioned by her brother Reuben, an important political figure in Baltimore and Philadelphia. In 1801, President Jefferson appointed Reuben Etting United States Marshal for the state of Maryland—although it was another quarter of a century before Jews gained full civic equality in the state. Solomon Etting, another of Sally’s brothers, was also a prominent figure in Baltimore during this period. At age 18, Solomon Etting became the first American shohet, a butcher trained to slaughter animals according to Jewish dietary laws. Solomon went on to become an important businessman and a leader in the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812. He also fought for Jewish civil rights, challenging the Maryland law that required officeholders to take a Christian oath. His struggle was successful, and Solomon Etting eventually served as a councilman for the city of Baltimore.
THE EARLY AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY
In the first few decades after American independence, the Jewish community in this country was small, and most American Jews were highly acculturated. There was a strong sense of kinship with family and European Jewry but also a fierce attachment to American life and society. Though the majority of Jews lived on the East Coast, there were Jewish merchants and traders spread throughout the states. The small size of the community and high level of acculturation probably contributed to the relatively high rate of intermarriage with non-Jews.