Rockwell Kent’s original 1927 pen and ink illustration “Chart of Hobcaw Barony” hangs on the wall in the formal dining room of Hobcaw House where it provided Baruch guests with a first glimpse of the sprawling estate, from its inland rice fields to its outer coastline. Kent, a prominent artist, illustrator, author, adventurer, naturalist, and social activist of the early 20th century, was widely known for his haunting illustrations in the 1930 edition of Moby-Dick and his contributions to the pages of Life, Harper’s Weekly, and Vanity Fair. As a member of the intellectual elite during the Jazz age and the New Deal era, Rockwell Kent was typical of the company Bernard Baruch kept.
Visually akin to well-known works of “geofiction” such as maps of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Middle Earth” and A.A. Milne’s “100 Acre Wood,” “Chart of Hobcaw Barony” uses imaginative flourishes to characterize the real world of Hobcaw and its inhabitants, past and present. The drawing depicts the estate from a bird’s-eye view, with exaggerated features and cartoon-like elements including a castle to represent Hobcaw House, a king with attendants holding his cape to represent Bernard Baruch, a church and cluster of small cabins to represent Friendfield Village.
One could say the “Chart of Hobcaw Barony” reflects, in some ways, the perspectives and prejudices of the privileged world occupied by Baruch and his social set. In contrast to Rockwell Kent’s vision of Hobcaw Barony, “Minnie’s World,” illustrated in 1999 by Minnie Kennedy, provides a different interpretation of the property.
Betsy Newman, project director for Between the Waters, writes, “[Minnie’s] hand-drawn map reflects an intimate connection to her birthplace, an abiding knowledge of the structures of Hobcaw and their inhabitants, the roads, pathways and woodpiles, even the location of the ‘community pump.’ Unlike Rockwell Kent’s ‘Chart of Hobcaw Barony,’ in which blacks are abstractly represented by an outsized ‘Mammy’ figure surrounded by small children, in ‘Minnie’s World’ we see precisely where each family lives and who their neighbors are. Several of the houses are identified by the same name, reflecting the close family ties of the villagers. Separated by a fence and a horse meadow from ‘The Big House’ on ‘The Hill,’ these are the workers who maintain the barony and serve the Baruchs and their guests. Both the Kent and Kennedy maps characterize Hobcaw Barony, its environment and its residents, albeit from distinctly different perspectives.”
The project team will utilize these two images, in addition to a larger collection of artwork portraying cultural and natural landscapes of the region, as another means to unlock the depth of human experience exhibited by material culture preserved at Hobcaw Barony.
Minnie Kennedy at Friendfield Village, 2010.
Betsy Newman recollects the storied life of “Minnie Kennedy – Hobcaw Rebel” in her most recent post to Making History Together.