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a city in northwest Indiana on Lake Michigan

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Pointing to Philadelphia city directories published between 1851 and 1854 that list Frank as a "designer," Lapsansky has speculated that he was "a commercial artist in the printing trade, the same occupation Charlie Ellis finally secures" in The Garies (35), but the 1850 U.S.
It seems likely that this was the time during which Frank wrote most of The Garies; at the very least, Lapsansky is probably correct when he says that, "while Frank may have been working on his novel for some time, he probably wrote the bulk of it during his enforced leisure after his business failed" (36).
Designing the text for British sale would certainly have made sense; the Webbs were well-connected there, and, as Lapsansky notes, because The Garies was technically "not an antislavery novel" but rather "an anti-racist work" set in the North, American audiences--especially white audiences--might have had difficulty with it.
The relative synchronicity of Webb's withdrawal from The New Era and Douglass's greatly expanded role with the paper should give us some pause, especially when we note that Douglass's coverage of Mary Webb's readings was amazingly scant when compared with that in other abolitionist periodicals and that he never seems to have mentioned The Garies. Hopefully, further researc h will uncover the relationship--or lack thereof--between Webb and Douglass.
However, that fairly scant attention has generally taken the form of cursory dismissals, in part because both novellas deal with upper-class white life in London, Paris, and Cannes and have no significant Black characters, and in part because, as Phillip Lapsansky notes of critics of The Garies, contemporary critics of the novellas confuse Webb's "acceptance of American middle class values with the lack of black identity and culture" (29).