The George Fox Oak Photographs

Two photographs of an oak tree beneath which George Fox preached were taken in 1860.  Together they composed a stereograph, a photograph that creates a three- dimensional effect.  The photographs were albumen prints, measuring about 3 by 6 ½ inches.  George Stacy was the photographer.  Part of the Larry Gottheim Collection, they rest now in the Library of Congress.

George Fox journeyed to America in 1671, speaking in the Caribbean and along the East Coast.  In Flushing, in New York City, he stayed at the Bowne House.  Because so many people wanted to hear him, he addressed them under two large oaks across from the building.  One of the trees fell in 1840; the other fell in 1863.  Both probably died due to a combination of old age and the construction of Bowne Street, which disturbed their roots.  The George Fox Stone, a granite marker, was installed in 1907 to commemorate the site.  Two lithographs, one by Charles Motte, the other anonymous, both from the early 19th century, depicted Fox preaching beneath the trees.  In 1841 Samuel B. Parsons wrote a poem about the oaks.

From Fox’s Autobiography:

“From Oyster Bay, we passed about thirty miles to Flushing where we had a very large meeting, many hundreds of people being there; some of whom came about thirty miles to it. A glorious and heavenly meeting it was (praised be the Lord God!), and the people were much satisfied.”

The George Fox Oak Photographs are haunting, sepia portraits of a tree in winter.  When I lived in New York City, I spent time in Flushing and passed the oak’s location many times.

                                                                                      Gary Sandman

November 2023

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