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The Johnny Newcome Series

A variety of satirical politicized cartoons cropped up in England in the 17th Century dealing with the life choices of a mythical character called Johnny Newcome, almost all his adventures were situated in the Caribbean colonies, namely Jamaica, if not explicitly stated. William Holland was notorious as a very controversial publisher of politically sensitive cartoons, who at one point was even convicted for libel, however he was not the only publisher willing to publish these often humorous cartoonist's works which featured the fictitious Mr Johnny Newcome as the main character of these anthropological commentary period pieces, usually aimed at denigrating the lives of persons who lived in Colonial Jamaica. 


The Johnny Newcome series is a follow-up piece to the Mimbo Wampo series

The Johnny Newcome Series

Johnny Newcome is received at a Jonkanoo Ball

The Jonkanoo or John Canoe Ball was held in and around Christmas time, this was the only true time that the enslaved population were allowed to play dress-up and masquerade and dance their cares away. The practice of Jonkanoo was adapted by the enslaved peoples of the Ivory Coasts of Africa, and is believed to have been an Akan practice incorporated with European influences, which was modified and transplanted by the enslaved people to celebrate Crop Over at Christmas time in the colony of Jamaica and several of the other English colonies in the Caribbean.

'John Canoe costumes were brightly colored and were decked with red, yellow, blue and green ribbons, with head-dresses of wire and colored paper. Cow horns or horses’ skulls were used for the appropriate characters. The King and Queen wore costumes of shiny materials and crowns of cardboard covered with silver paper. The Queen was generally dressed in white, with a veil of white tulle completely covering her face. There could be also one-legged men, stilt dances and contortionists.

Jack-in-the green, a man covered with green foliage, seems to be an old character not found very much nowadays in John Canoe. In the east (St. Thomas) and far west of the island (Hanover) there was another character, Mother Lundi, an enormous, gaudily dressed, effigy of a woman, constructed on a framework of bamboo-wicker and borne on a stick. This character was made to wheel and turn and bob by the skill of the dancer concealed underneath.

Another set of characters that seemed to have its origin in the Eastern part of the island, in St. Thomas and Portland, were the Indians -American Indian types- dressed with beads and mirrors, and wearing feathered head-dresses.' quotation source: https://www.about-jamaica.com/john-canoe/

Johnny meets the Planter's Daughter

As was customary at Christmas everyone took part in the Jonkonnu festivities regardless of whether you were a member of the enslaved classes or the enslaver and his family, his overseer or the Estate Carpenter or the Book Keeper or the Wheelwright. It is here that Johnny dances up a merry storm with the rosey cheeked Rosa. 

It was usually the hope of every eligible male coming out to the sunny isle of Jamaica to catch the eye of a planter's daughter or the recently Widowed lass of comfortable means, especially if a hefty dowry and property holding could be had.

Johnny Newcome weds

Often after a short courtship if the gentleman was lucky, he would nab himself a wealthy dowry once he had wed his Rosa. Most marriage contracts between the members of the plantocracy were based on wealth consolidation. Through this means a lowly young-man, like our fictitious Johnny Newcome just out of England with its rigid hierarchical class system could find himself the inheritor via his wife, the owner of a vast plantation holding, a Great House with many slaves at his beck and call, along with the accompanying wealth which came with it all. Marriage became a very lucrative business indeed. Often more than such the promise of a dowry was legally binding and even if the proposed marriage did not occur primarily because the groom-to-be had died, there still had to be an official legal release done up to release the bride-to-be from her obligation of paying over the dowry to the now deceased intended.