Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Memphis Slave Hospital

I was surprised to learn about Jackson Street Hospital, an infirmary for African Americans in antebellum Augusta, Georgia, a couple of years ago. But it appears that Jackson Street Hospital was not the sole hospital for slaves and free blacks in the South who advertised.

In the January 1, 1857, issue of the Memphis Daily Appeal, the above advertisement ran for "Dr. Robards' Private Infirmary for Negroes." Dr. Robards appealed directly to slave owners in this notice. He claimed: "The experience and observation of many year in the profession have convinced me that a large majority of the invalid negroes on plantations and elsewhere, who are worthless to their owners and burdens to themselves, might, by proper and judicious treatment, comfortable quarters, good nursing and regular administration [of] remedies, be cured and made valuable servants."

Robards offered to attend to each slave patient himself, along with the help of "attentive nurses" for only a $1.00 to $1.50 fee per day. However, the good doctor did not accept patients with epidemic or contagious diseases. He also noted the location of his office for easy admittance.

This idea of slave hospitals is quite fascinating to me. If anyone knows of others, I would be interested to learn about others.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Domestic Slave Trade - The Other End

Over the years I've shared several newspaper advertisements that highlight the domestic slave trade in the United States from various points of origin. However, not surprisingly slave traders also marketed their offerings at destinations.

The above advertisement appeared in the New Year's Day 1857 edition of the Memphis Daily Appeal. In it the traders, the Littles, wanted potential buyers to know they had "JUST RECEIVED, From Virginia and Middle Tennessee A LIKELY lot of young Negroes, consisting of field hands, house servants, a number one cook  and general house servant."

The Littles went on to let buyers, "Planters and others," know that they were "invited to give us a call."

Likewise, New Orleans slave trader O. F. Hatcher advertised that his remodeled and "Commodious Show-Room" was "prepared to accommodate over 200 Negroes." Interestingly, Hatcher also marketed rooms and amenities for buyers and sellers of slaves "on reasonable terms."

The reach of the domestic slave trade was enormous in that this ad did not appear in a New Orleans newspaper, but in the Richmond Enquirer, on December 6, 1859. By advertising in Richmond, Hatcher was probably seeking to let sellers know he bought surplus enslaved individuals, but as he specifically pointed out in this ad, he also offered slaves "for sale."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War Against Slavery, by Steven Lubet, Cambridge University Press, 2015.

I am currently reading Lubet's most recent biography of a John Brown raider. I thoroughly enjoyed his previous book on raider John E. Cook a few years back and was excited to see this offering from Cambridge University of Press available several months ago. Copeland's story is quite interesting, and although it appears that primary source material on Copeland is somewhat limited, Lubet's account helps us see the abolitionist war on slavery from an important perspective. 

Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade, by Maurie D. McInnis, University of Chicago Press, 2013.

I came across this particular title while visiting the University of Virginia bookstore, and quickly added it to my wishlist. Using the noted painting by British artist Eyre Crowe, which appears on its cover, the author, UVA professor Maurie D. McInnis, looks at the United States domestic slave trade and how abolitionist art influenced the anti-slavery movement.

Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia's Ex-Slaves, ed. by Charles L. Perdue, Jr., Thomas E. Barden, and Robert K. Phillips.

Taking its contents from the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers Project (FWP) and the Virginia Writers Project (VWP) interviews with elderly former slaves in 1930s Virginia, this book promises to be a special read. Many of the Virginia interviewers for the FWP were African Americans, and the VWP was an all-black group, who eventually published The Negro in Virginia in 1940. While the FWP and VWP have limitations due to being conducted so far removed from the period under study, these accounts have helped twentieth and twenty-first century scholars give the public a better understanding of slavery from the viewpoint of those who lived it.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Southerner's Westward Migration

I'm not sure exactly why, but I have become intrigued with migration to the Old Southwest in the first half of the nineteenth century. Virginia, along with North Carolina and South Carolina, experienced enormous out migration to lands opened up by Native American removal. States such as Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana boomed as the Cotton Kingdom edged ever westward. The opportunities for cheap land and potential profits were too much of a temptation for many easterners looking for upward social and economic mobility.

Evidence for such movement appears in several forms. Often advertisements in period newspapers offer farms for sale noting that former owners were pulling up stakes for the West. Numerous notices seeking to purchase slaves for "the Southern market" are another hint. Another form is shown above: an obituary.

This death notice ran in the July 19, 1839 edition of the Richmond Enquirer. The obituary shared the news of former Caroline County resident John F. Green. Green had moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama six years earlier. Green's age at death was listed as twenty-eight, so he must have been about twenty-two years of age when he left the Old Dominion seeking his El Dorado in Alabama. Potential riches seemed within relatively easy reach for those who possessed a combination of intelligence, acumen, and a strong work ethic. The line of thinking often went something like this: If I can make a few wise investments in land and slaves, and pair it with some fortunate weather and if the cotton market remains strong, well, within a couple of years I can expand, reinvest, and make a fortune. It worked for some, for others, not so much.

The obituary gives some hints as to why Green might have sought "greener pastures" in Alabama. Being the youngest of eleven children likely left little for John to inherit. But, being a young man in the prime of life, during an era of massive speculation (which burst in 1837), Green also probably wanted to make his own way where opportunities seemed boundless and where others has succeeded. Green, as we learn, did not get to experience monetary riches. He passed from consumption. However, it seems that he did enjoy the companionship of new friends he made and who comforted him while he was far from family and his former home. Green's noted "sterling integrity and honor" were about the best compliments a Southern man could receive.

I looked up what type of household John Green came from. I found his father, George Green listed in 1840 Caroline County census. John's father had three other family members living with him at the time. He also owned thirty-eight slaves. It's a guess on my part, but I suspect that John was probably looking to follow in his father's footsteps by establishing his own farm/plantation in Alabama. However, consumption caught him first.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

He Says He is Free

When I happened across the above advertisement in the March 9, 1860 edition of the Richmond Daily Dispatch, it immediately brought to mind an advertisement I found when I lived in Kentucky. In the Bluegrass State notice, it announced the capture of a man of color who claimed to be free and even offered a named alibi to boot. Regardless, the incarcerated man continued to be advertised for the required amount of time, then eventually offered for sale at the county courthouse. It opened my eyes to the potentially powerlessness that free people of color experienced in the slave states.

Similarly, this man, Richard James Branch, or aka "Cross," claimed to be free and even offered his free papers as evidence. But because he was able to read and write the jailer presumed that Branch had forged them. This advertisement helps clarify a couple of mid-nineteenth century points on race. First, at the time, all people of color were first presumed to be enslaved. When African Americans were out and about or in places not usually visited by slaves, it piqued suspicions of whites, who due to racially defined obligations, could demand blacks to provide proof of their freedom. Secondly, when people of color did indeed provide their papers, that ability did not always relieve white suspicions. It was as if they were guilty until proven innocent, and then guilty still.  

The advertisement ends with an interesting turn of phrase: "If said Negro is a runaway. . . ." It is as if the jailer himself was not convinced that Branch was a slave.  However, we are only left to wonder what happened to Branch. Were his papers forged? And, if so, did his master read the notice and make his recovery? If Branch was free, how long did he linger in jail? Did he end up being sold since he could not prove his freedom beyond an unreasonable doubt like the Kentucky slave mentioned earlier?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Albert, and William A. Gay

Urban forms of slavery sometimes get less scholarly attention than those experienced on rural plantations. But in the cities and towns of the slave states enslaved men and women completed a plethora of tasks for their owners and leasers. Period runaway slave advertisements provide solid evidence of this fact.

In the above notice, slaver renter William A. Gay, who lived in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond, posted a $5 reward for the apprehension of Albert. Albert was owned by a Miss Pollard from King and Queen County, and served as Gay's ice cart driver.

On the morning of July 14, 1839, Albert apparently saw an opportunity for escape and took it. As the advertisement relates, Albert absconded with the horse that pulled the ice cart, leaving the vehicle in the roadway. Gay mentioned also that he had learned that the young slave man might be headed for the free state of Ohio. Gay, too, mentioned that due to Albert's departure, and apparently the separate issue of Albert's killing of Gay's mule, he could not long serve ice to his customers. Albert's agency of running away, stealing Gay's horse, and leaving him without a driver was a triple economic whammy on Gay. I assume that if Gay was not able to recover Albert, he would have had to pay Miss Pollard for the loss.

I do not know whether Gay recovered Albert or not. And while Albert's flight was surely a sting to Gay's pocket book (if only temporarily) it seems that Gay recovered. Gay was located in the 1840 census as the owner of five slaves; one boy, two men, a girl, and a woman. Gay also shows up in the 1850 census as a fifty-five year old farmer, owning $2300 in real estate. In addition, Gay had increased his slave labor force by two from his 1840 holdings to seven.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Running Away to the Confederate Army?

If you have been reading many posts here lately, you have probably noticed that I am currently captivated by newspaper notices and advertisements concerning slavery. These little bits of the past are sometimes so informative about life in the mid-nineteenth century that it is simply amazing.

For example, the above advertisement ran in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on July 23, 1861; just two days after the first major clash of arms at Manassas. In it E. H. Gill, General Superintendent for the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, sought to reclaim Abraham, who ran away in June from what was probably some fairly grueling labor. One can only imagine the difficult work of grading railroad beds and laying rails and ties.

Apparently the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad rented Abraham from a Captain John Buford, who lived in Bedford County, Virginia. Although the advertisement does not indicate why, Gill believed that Abraham was in Richmond or "at one of the volunteer encampments." Perhaps Gill thought that Abraham could avoid detection by heading for the bustling new capital city of the Confederacy where thousands of citizen soldiers were training and preparing to head for the battlefront, and where a black man could potentially attain a level of anonymity. If Abraham could pass himself off as a free man of color he could possibly hire himself to some officer as a body servant, which likely included less demanding work than the railroad demanded. Of course this is purely speculation, but Gill must have had some reason for predicting Abraham's whereabouts.

Abraham's owner John Buford shows up in the 1860 census as a thirty-five year old farmer who lived with his twenty-nine year old wife and their toddler son and infant daughter. He owned $17,460 in real estate and $30,000 in personal property. Buford's personal property included twenty slaves, whom lived in four slave dwellings. His slave force ranged in age from thirty-six years old to two months.

It is speculation again on my part, but perhaps Buford had a surplus of labor for his farming needs and thus the reason for Abraham's service to the railroad. Regardless of all the unknowns, advertisements such as this one give us a better idea of the economics of slavery, and the methods of agency incorporated by the enslaved, in mid-nineteenth century Virginia.  

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. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Joseph Bruin, "Trader in Negroes"

Joseph Bruin traded in slaves. Buy them low, sell them high. Making a profit on human property was his business, and business was obviously good. Bruin lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, and ran a slave jail and trading post in Alexandria. The above advertisement ran in the Alexandria Gazette on January 21, 1858. In the notice Bruin sought to purchase slaves, who he often then had transported to distant localities for sale in the expanding southwestern states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. 

Bruin is shown in the 1860 census as a fifty year old "Trader in Negroes." He is listed as owning $10,000 in real estate and $100,00 in personal property. Bruin had a large family that included his wife, thirty-nine year old "M. H," four daughters that ranged from nineteen to one, and three sons, who were aged nine to four. Three of the school-aged children were being offered the opportunity to receive an education. Bruin also appears in the 1860 slave schedules as the owner of 15 slaves. The oldest of his slaves was an eighty-three year old woman and the youngest was a one year old girl.

Bruin's career in Alexandria covered about two decades. Starting around 1840, Bruin, along with early partner Henry Hill traded slaves from a building on Duke Street. Bruin became a Federal prisoner early in the Civil War and was held across the Potomac River in Old Capitol Prison in Washington D.C.

Bruin and Hill gained a level of notoriety after seventy-seven slaves absconded from Washington City aboard the ship The Pearl in 1848. After the craft was arrested and the runaways captured, many of their disgruntled owners sold them to Bruin and Hill, who in turn sold them to the New Orleans market. Spared from sale were the teen-aged sisters Mary and Emily Edmonson, who were purchased by abolitionists and then granted their freedom by their free father. The Edmonson sisters went on to attend school in Ohio and work in the antislavery field.

Bruin's slave jail remains standing today, however, it is privately owned. A monument nearby honors the Edmonson sisters and serves as a reminder of this piece of Alexandria's history.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Hobson Barber Advertisements

Browsing through the April 23, 1857, issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch, I happened upon an advertisement for Richmond free man of color and barber R. C. Hobson for "A New Hair Dye" (see above). I previously posted about Hobson and an 1859 advertisement of his back last July.

In this particular ad, Hobson listed his shop as being below the American Hotel on 11th Street. From my findings in Kentucky, as well as Virginia, it seems that many free black barbers located their places of business in such locales. Obviously being so near to hotel guests made such locations ideal for access to transitory customers and loyal patrons.    

In that same issue, but on a different page, Hobson ran another ad offering his barbering services to both "citizens and strangers." Hobson touted his ability to cut in the "latest and most improved style." He also promoted all of his services, which included "Hair Cutting, Shaving and Shampooing." In addition he marketed his hot and cold "Shower Baths" which were available at any time. One bath was $.25 or five tickets for baths could be bought for $1.00.

Hopefully, as I continue to search, I will find more of these type of advertisements to see how they compare and contrast.