Sunday, February 7, 2016

From the Valley to the "Southern Market"

When one thinks of centers of slave trading in antebellum Virginia, those probably most often include major cities such as Richmond, Alexandria, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg. But interestingly, it appears that a significant amount of trading occurred in the towns and cities of the Shenandoah Valley as well.

Trader John B. Smith of Augusta County ran the advertisement above in the Staunton Spectator for several months including the January 10, 1860 edition. In the notice Smith desires to purchase 100 slaves, and offering to pay "the highest market prices." He was specifically seeking "able bodied young" men and women for the "Southern market."  

Similar to the Smith advertisement, but increasing the number of enslaved people sought after, J. E. Carson, also of Augusta County, marketed his services in the June 12, 1860 issue of the Staunton Spectator. Carson drew upon much of the same language as Smith. He notes that his search for "likely young Negroes," are intended for the "Southern market" and that he will pay the "highest market prices." It also appears that like Smith this advertisement ran for about six months, as it notes the date January 24, 1860, as the start date. 

In August 1860, Smith decided to switch up his advertisement headline; now stating that he has plenty of cash on hand ($100,000) to "pay the VERY HIGHEST PRICES" for "sound and healthy NEGROES." Smith also sought to find some employees to serve as his agents in making slave purchases, probably figuring he could cover more ground with some help. This, like those previously shown, was not a one time advertisement. Smith began running this advertisement in August 1860, and I located it in the October 9, 1860 edition of the Spectator.

Below Smith's advertisement, competitor William Taylor, from Rockbridge County, staked his number of slaves sought after at 1000. Taylor, too, states that the "young and likely" slaves "of both sexes" he seeks are meant to be sold down South.

Slave trading was not an isolated practice limited only to certain areas. It was a business with enormous potential profits, and therefore there were always individuals willing to make an effort at the work. 

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