‘The Terrible Night’
“The Terrible Night” is one of a series of 21 linocut prints produced by artist J. Howard Iams depicting the events of the Whiskey Rebellion.
In 1791, Congress enacted a federal excise tax on whiskey to help reduce the national debt. Violent resistance by farmers in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Western Virginia and beyond resulted in attacks on federal agents and tax collectors. President George Washington sent troops to quell the resistance.
“The Terrible Night” illustrates the event of Nov. 13, 1794, when federal troops arrested the men most wanted for the insurrection, dragging them out of bed, half-clothed and marching them through mud and cold to makeshift prisons. Most were set free for lack of evidence. Thirty-five were indicted for an assortment of crimes, including treason, but later pardoned by Washington.
Iams (1897–1964) grew up in the North Ten Mile region of Washington County and traveled through the region researching and illustrating remnants of the colonial past. His art and illustrations are in the collections of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg.
Block prints are made by carving an image into the surface of linoleum or wood blocks with a sharp knife or V-shaped gouge. The raised, uncut areas represent the image to be printed. The block is then inked with a brayer and impressed onto paper by hand or with a printing press.
The 21 framed prints were donated to the Historical Society by George Dobisch.
Alice Burroughs is a volunteer for the Washington County Historical Society and a member of the antiquities committee.