Saturday, June 22, 2013

An Unusual Runaway Advertisement

I found the above runaway advertisement today while doing research, and I must say it is the most unusual one located yet. It is unique for several reasons.

One obvious thing that stands out when reading it is that the runaway's name is not given anywhere in the ad. I have found a number of ads for jailed runaways where the individual's name is not given, but that is probably due to the slave not providing it when captured. Rarely do the runaway ads not include the subject's name.

The second thing that struck me as odd is the length of the advertisement. Now, I do not know if period newspapers charged per word or not, but most of the runaway notices made by owners were rather short and to the point.

Thirdly, and associated to the second, is the word choice that the master incorporated. The way he starts off the ad is unlike any other I have read. It is as if he believed that style of opening would catch more people's attention -  and maybe it did. I am not sure what to make of his comment that the slave probably went "where he can find Northern soldiers with Southern sympathies." His discourse on the slave preferring the military life to that of "farming pursuits" is also interesting. The inclusion that "it is generally considered he possesses no qualifications for the same either as an officer or a private," seems like a strange thing to comment on. Is he being sarcastic? I think he is. The owner's thoughts that the slave was in a Union camp was certainly not uncommon, as many owners suspected their runaways as going off with the various Federal forces crossing Kentucky. But his wording at the end - his statement that the slave's proper "headquarters" was at Cumberland College is definitely not typical matter-of-fact runaway advertisement language. 

Lastly, the owner, and thus the slave, being associated with a college is not something previously found in my research.

I suppose that an advertisement of this type only illustrates the diversity of owners' personalities and occupations, just as the runaway advertisements show the diversity of the enslaved.  


  1. It would be interesting to do a little research on William Morrow himself, and see if and how his personality crops up elsewhere.

  2. Yes, a interesting find, with yr points.
    -very different, no to list the slave's name.

  3. I will try to find a few minutes in the next week or so and see how Morrow appears in the 1860 census.

  4. Tim, I wonder if you have a date this article was published, and in what paper. I have an ancestor by this name,from this KY area, so will be interested to see what you find when you look him up in the 1860 census. Great work!

  5. This advertisement ran in the Louisville Weekly Journal on July 21, 1863.