Saturday, January 6, 2018

Browsing Random Newspaper Issues from the Past #1

While half-watching the U.S. Army All-American high school football game, waiting to see if my beloved Sooners get a verbal commitment for two, I browsed through the January 1, 1853, issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch. There was no real intention for choosing that particular issue other than to see what might catch my attention. Here's a few of the things I came across:

For enslaved people the punishment for going about without a pass was usually a whipping. Richard Tyler who was owned by Daniel Weisiger received the punishment in this case. Often these arrests were made by the city police force and judged by the mayor.

Even those slaves with a pass had to have it signed by their owner. If not, they also received ten lashes.

With such punishments being quite common, it is easy to see the concerns of free people of color when they happened to misplace their free papers. In the antebellum slave states an African American was assumed to be enslaved and it was up the  individual to bear the burden of proof. I've seen a number of similar ads to that above in Virginia newspapers in the years before the Civil War.

Sales notices and wanting to rent advertisements were so common in this particular edition that I only included this one as an example. The first of the year was traditionally the beginning of the slave hiring season and the sheer number of advertisements bear that out. However, I found this sales notice intriguing as it specifically mentions the individuals who were to be sold by name. Often these ads just use ambiguous descriptions such as "a group of men, women and children." The Hills were one of the many slave traders who made Richmond their base.

Slave traders needed forms to keep proper records and to provide customers with official documentation such as bills of sale and receipts, so Richmond printers and book stores met their needs. This is just another example of how interwoven slavery was into the economy of the South. Perhaps the owner of this book store did not own slaves, but he still benefited from the institution.

Cooks, laundresses, ironers, and nurses are some of the most common slave hiring roles that whites sought at the first of the year. Here, a man is offered for hire as a cook. We too often assume that cooking was a woman's sphere in the antebellum era, but occasionally males served in this duty as well. It appears that a brokerage firm is making this particular advertisement, likely for a client who hired them to do so. The brokers would gain a commission upon securing the hire.

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