Campus News

UK Libraries transfers rare stereograph to Henry Clay Memorial Foundation

rare stereograph of Aaron Dupuy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 15, 2023) — The legacy of America’s Great Compromiser, Henry Clay, is — complicated. Hailed as an American statesman, a missing piece of the Kentucky senator’s Lexington legacy is the story of the 122 enslaved humans that called Ashland home.

“So much of the history of slavery has been obliterated, hidden, lost or ignored,” said Eric Brooks, curator and site manager of Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate.

However, it is the story of Aaron Dupuy and his family that has helped uncover the hidden history of the many enslaved families forced to live a life of service to the Clay family and their 600-acre plantation Ashland estate. The Dupuys were the enslaved family at Ashland for which most information has been found. Aaron, patriarch of the family, served as the personal valet and coach driver for Henry Clay. He also traveled extensively with Clay, both domestically and internationally. The images of the Dupuy family are the only known of Clay’s enslaved people.

“In 2020 we rolled out 'Traces: Slavery at Ashland' that approaches the estate entirely from the perspective of the people enslaved here and embraces the hard and uncomfortable truth about slavery here and in general,” said Brooks. “We have also revised our Signature Tour to more fully and accurately address the issue of slavery and the lives of the enslaved.”

One of the unique moments of the tour is the opportunity to view a rare drawing of Aaron’s son, Charles Dupuy. But, as Brooks and the Ashland staff have worked to expand the story of the enslaved, more perspective was necessary. About two miles away, the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center (UKL SCRC) held another rare image — a stereograph of Aaron Dupuy.

“The stereograph is part of the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation papers,” said Deirdre Scaggs, associate dean for research and discovery and director of the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. “These were originally held at Ashland but donated to UKL SCRC so that we could preserve and provide access to the materials.”

In 2023 UKL SCRC and Henry Clay Memorial Foundation agreed to transfer a copy of the stereograph of Aaron Dupuy to the Ashland estate to be displayed on public tours. Once registered and framed, the stereograph will be displayed next to the drawing of his son Charles by early July.

“Sharing this photograph with Ashland is important to telling a more complete story of the Clay family, it exposes this history to a new audience, and hopefully will help to encourage more research into enslaved persons at Ashland and in Kentucky,” said Scaggs.

In commemoration of the Juneteenth holiday, UK Libraries Dean Doug Way joined Scaggs at the Ashland mansion for an official “hand-off” of the Aaron Dupuy stereograph to Ashland Estate officials on Monday, June 12, 2023.

“Part of UK Libraries’ mission is to preserve and share the Commonwealth’s history and culture. We do this through our collections, our programs and our partnerships, like those we have with the Henry Clay Estate,” said Way. “I am so very pleased that we can help elevate and tell the stories of those individuals who were enslaved on this property. Too often we have forgotten, ignored or marginalized these individuals and their histories. I am grateful we can play a role in helping the story of Charles and Aaron Dupuy come alive to visitors to Ashland.”

According to Brooks, there is still one missing image the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation would like to locate. In a letter at the Library of Congress, Henry Clay’s daughter-in-law, Susan Jacob Clay, describes a photograph of Charlotte Dupuy that Susan had made. The image is likely either a daguerreotype or ambrotype. There has also been a continued attempt to locate direct descendants of the Dupuy family, but as of 2023, none have been identified by the foundation.

Tour information

The public is invited to experience the grounds of Ashland and Henry Clay’s mansion.

The Henry Clay Signature Tour is the essential guided tour available weekly, Tuesdays-Sundays.

"Traces: Slavery at Ashland Tour" tells the unvarnished story of the men, women and children who were enslaved at Ashland. The tour is available Tuesdays-Sundays daily at 1 p.m.

Visit for more information.

UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center

The Special Collections Research Center collects, preserves and provides access to materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Our collections and resources support the research, teaching and scholarship of the university community and scholars around the world. By serving as the essential bridge between past, present and future, the SCRC provides rich opportunities for students to expand their worldview and for scholars to advance original research.

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