Thursday, November 26, 2015

One of my favorite turkey paintings

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Turkeys 1946

New England - 1629 Fat Partridges & other "strange fowls"

A Short and True Description of New England
by the Rev. Francis Higginson, 1629
Printed for Michael Sparke, London, 1630.

Francis Higginson (1588-1630) was an early Puritan minister in Colonial New England, and the first minister of Salem, Massachusetts.

Fowls of the air are plentiful here, and of all sorts as we have in England as far as I can learn, and a great many of strange fowls which we know not.

Eagle woodcut from 1577

Whilst I was writing these things, one of our men brought home an eagle which he had killed in the wood. They say they are good meat. Also here are many kinds of excellent hawks, both sea hawks and land hawks.

And myself walking in the woods with another in company, sprung a partridge so big that through the heaviness of his body could fly but a little way. They that have killed them say they are as big as our hens.

Woodcut of partridge

Here are likewise abundance of turkeys often killed in the woods, far greater than our English turkeys, and exceeding fat, sweet and fleshy, for here they have abundance of feeding all the year long, such as strawberries: in summer all places are full of them, and all manner of berries and fruits.

Engraving of turkey

In the winter time I have seen flocks of pigeons, and have eaten of them. They do fly from tree to tree as other birds do, which our pigeons will not do in England. They are of all colors as ours are, but their wings and tails are far longer, and therefore it is likely they fly swifter to escape the terrible hawks in this country.

Woodcut of ducks

In winter time this country doth abound with wild geese, wild ducks, and other sea fowl, that a great part of winter the planters have eaten nothing but roastmeat of divers fowls which they have killed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

17C - 19C Divorce & Wayward Wife Ads in Early America

"Stafford County, October 13th, 1751. RAN away from the Subscriber, this Day, a Servant Man, named William Frye...had on when he went away a bluish grey Kersey Coat, with yellow Buttons...The said Runaway went off with the Wife of the Subscriber, named Mary, a short, thick Woman of a dark Complexion, with black hair, black Eyes, aged about 30 Years, and has lost one of her front Teeth: She is a neat Woman in Sewing, Spinning, and knitting Stockngs, and can do almost any Manner of Taylors Work, but is oblig'd to use Spectacles when at Work. She took with her a striped Silk Stuff Gown...And, as the above-mentioned Mary has eloped from her said Husband, I hereby foreward all Persons from trusting her on my Account, for I will not pay any Debts she shall contract after the Publication hereof."  (Virginia Gazette (Hunter), Williamsburg, October 31, 1751.)

Because divorce was nearly impossible under the 17C - 18C laws of England & its colonial British American colonies, male colonists, ready to end their marriages, began to declare publicly that their wives had deserted their "bed & board," just as they had seen done in England. In England, desertion or elopement was one possible method of ending a marriage, whereby the wife was forced out of the family home, or the husband simply set up a new home with a new love. For husbands of the period, the ads were often accepted as an efficient & relatively inexpensive way to “self-divorce,” simultaneously protecting both their purses & reputations. 

In her book "Scarce Any Ways or Means;" The Separated Woman in Colonial Maryland 1634-1776, Karen Ann Lubienieck sees these adds as a husband's method of no longer having to assume responsibility for their wives debts, a major obligation of coverture. In the 17C & 18C colonial economy, there were few cash transactions, almost all were based on credit. "A man's advertisement in effect could quite literally 'discredit' his wife, and keep her from spending money that he would have to repay."

Before the American Revolution, a woman gave up so many civil & property rights when she married, that some said brides were entering a state of "civil death." Colonial law was based upon English common law. Predicated on "precedent & fixed principles," common law had dictated a subordinate position for women. Married colonial women generally were not allowed to make contracts, devise wills, take part in other legal transactions, or control any wages they might earn. All property & monies which the new wife owned before her marriage immediately became the sole property of her new husband, leaving her with nothing.  One of the few legal advantages of marriage for a woman was that her husband was obligated to support her & be responsible for her debts. One exception to this practice was in colonial Plymouth, Massachusetts, most notably contained in prenuptial agreements, where brides-to-be could enter into contractual agreements on the consolidation of property upon marriage. In some cases, especially in 2nd marriages, women in Plymouth were given exclusive right to retain control of their property separately from their husbands 

Wayward wife ads were useful as a punitive measure against the discarded wife as well. The term “elope” implied that the wife had committed adultery, so that the ad not only protected the husband’s finances, but also could ruin his wife’s reputation, whether or not the allegation of immoral behavior was true. Sometimes wives did leave their homes with the options for women in unhappy or abusive marriages tragically limited, many simply fled.

The earliest known example was in 1656, according to historian Kirsten Denise Sword, whose 2002 Harvard dissertation was on “Wayward Wives, Runaway Slaves and the Limits of Patriarchal Authority in Early America.” In 1656, Christopher Lawson posted notices around Boston warning that “none should trust” his wife Elizabeth, who he claimed planned to “blemish my name ... and ruine my estate.”

Each public ad, whether in a broadside or a newspaper, usually contained 3 consistent components: 

a reference to “my bed & board,” 
an indication that the wife had “eloped,” 
& a declaration that the husband would “no longer be responsible for her debts.”

Historian Sarah Leavitt, who analyzed such advertisements in colonial Rhode Island, described the “almost routine” phrasing: “After identifying the wife, the abandoned husband proceeded to an explanation of what she had done. Stating that she had left his bed & board was fundamental …‘My bed & board’ is perhaps the key phrase in the advertisements. Embedded in these words is the very essence of marital existence for women in the late 18C: in the eyes of the law, married women did not live in their own homes ...The most important reason for an abandoned husband to place a notice in the newspaper was to warn all local businesses, tavern & inn keepers, & other persons that he would no longer pay the debts incurred by his wife. This disclaimer of financial responsibility could have the most serious consequences for a runaway wife.”

Not all advertisements were posted by men. Women occasionally posted their own notices to get ahead of any speculation as to who had left whom, and why. Some women used the classified ads as a way to describe—in detail—the extent to which they had been victims of domestic abuse. Elizabeth Dunlap, a woman from Salem County New Jersey, had decided to leave her husband, James Dunlap, after years of abuse. During the week of March 18-25, 1742 James Dunlap published a notice in the American Weekly Mercury warning the public that his wife had “eloped” & that he would no longer be responsible for her debts. She denied the accusation on April 8, 1742, contending that she had fled the home for “the safety of her life.” In addition she warned that she would not agree to his sale of land to which she claimed a third by right of dower. James Dunlap published his own rebuttal during the week of June 10-17, 1742, denying Elizabeth's charges. (Documents relating to the Colonial History of New Jersey, 1895).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

19C Dwellings of American Slaves before & after the Civil War

Depictions of slave cabins before the end of the Civil War

While some houses were raised off the ground, not all slaves were so fortunate. Sylvia Cannon describes living conditions during her time as a slave in an area near Florence: "There were about twenty other colored people house there in the quarter. The ground been us floor and us fireplace been down on the ground. Take sticks and make chimney, 'cause there won't no bricks and won't no sawmills to make lumber when I come along." 

Another ex-slave, Zack Herndon, explained the lack of furniture that was typical of all slave houses: "Us never had a chair in the house. My pa made benches for us to site by the fire on .... We had a large plank table that Pa made. Never had no mirrors. Went to the spring to see ourselves on a Sunday morning. Never had no such things as dressers in them days. All us had was a table, benches, and beds. And my pa made them." 

Slave Houses, Mulberry Plantation, South Carolina, ca. 1800

Slave Houses on a Rice Plantation, U.S. South, 1859 Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859), vol. 19, p. 730; accompanies article by T. Addison Richards, The Rice Lands of the South (pp. 721-38).

Slave Quarters, Louisiana, 1861-65  Adolf Carlsson Warberg, Skizzer fran Nord-Amerikanska Kriget, 1861-1865. Bref och anteckningar under en fyraarig vistelse i Forenta staterna af en i detta krig deltagande svensk officer (Stockholm, 1867-71), facing p. 308.

Plantation Village mid 1800s. Edmund Ollier, Cassell's History of the United States (London, 1874-77), Vol. 3, p. 193.

Slave Cabin on a Rice Plantation, U.S. South, 1859 Harper's Monthly Magazine, vol. 19 (1859), p. 724; accompanies article by T. Addison Richards, The Rice Lands of the South (pp. 721-38).

Slave house or cabin, 1862-65 Edwin Forbes, Life Studies of the Great Army. A historical work of art, .illustrating the life of the Union Armies during the years 1862-'3-'4'-5 (New York, E. Forbes, 1876), plate 23

Slave house or cabin, 1862-65 Edwin Forbes, Life Studies of the Great of the Union Armies during the years 1862-'3-'4'-5 (New York, E. Forbes, 1876),  1862-'3-'4'-5 plate 10

Plantation Slaves, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862 Library of Congress

The following paintings were painted after the Civil War ended in 1865:

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin Scene

The dwellings of African Americans did not change dramatically after the Civil War, except that families usually occupied one cabin.  Before freedom, slaves usually slept in community cabins.  Theodore Weld collected descriptions of slave dwellings in the 1830s.  Genre painter William Aiken Walker painted many scenes of African American homes after the Civil War.

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Board and Batten Northern South Carolina Cabin 1886

Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skaneateles, N. Y. who has lived in Alabama. "The huts where the slaves slept, generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor.''

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin in the South

George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester, N. Y. who lived four years in Virginia. "Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Va., I can not call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; anything that a northern laborer, or mechanic, white or colored, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition, to separate the sexes.''

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin

William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine. President of the American Peace Society, formerly a slaveholder in Florida. "The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto leaf. The door, when they had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments, except the guinea negroes had sometimes a small inclosure for their 'god house.' These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays.''

 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin Scene

Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, Pastor Pres. Church, Castile, Greene Co., N. Y., who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837. "The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors, and have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together.''

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin Scene

George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational Church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave states. "On old plantations, the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards, seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies from 8 by 10, to 10 by 12, feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass in any. In the new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of similar dimensions.''

 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin

Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian Church in Farmington, Ohio. Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-8. "Their houses were commonly built of logs, sometimes they were framed, often they had no floor, some of them have two apartments, commonly but one; each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted of a man and his wife and children, while in other instances persons of both sexes, were thrown together without any regard to family relationship.''

 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Log Cabin with Stretched Hide on Wall

The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves. "They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect, and sometimes no floor, and seldom raised from the ground, ill ventilated, and surrounded with filth.''

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Louisiana Cabin Scene with Stretched Hide on Weatherboard and Stock Chimney Covered with Clay 1878

William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of his life in Madison, Co. Alabama. "The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from 10 to 12 feet square, often without windows, doors, or floors, they have neither chairs, table, or bedstead.''

 William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Negro Cabin by a Palm Tree

Reuben L. Macy of Hudson, N. Y. a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19. "The houses for the field slaves were about 14 feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.''

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Cabin in the South

Lemuel Sapington of Lancaster, Pa. a native of Maryland, formerly a slaveholder. "The descriptions generally given of negro quarters, are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter.''

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Negro Cabin with Palm Tree

Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee. "When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber."

William Aiken Walker (American painter, 1839-1921) Negro Cabin with Two-Pole Chimney

Philemon Bliss, Esq. Elyria, Ohio., who lived in Forida, in 1835. "The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment and very generally without floors.''  Mr. W. C. Gildersleeve, Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia. "Their huts were generally put up without a nail, frequently without floors, and with a single apartment.''  Hon. R. J. Turnbull, of South Carolina, a slaveholder. "The slaves live in clay cabins.''

Quotes from American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839

Images of slave cabins before the Civil War mostly from, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. If there are any questions on the images before the end of the Civil War, contact Jerome Handler

17C - 19C American Slaves Supplementing Food Allocations - The Slave Garden or Huck Patch

Occasionally slave owners in the 17C & 18C allowed their workers to layout and plant small gardens to supplement the usually meager food provisions allocated to the field slaves. Some masters intentionally delegated a small plot of ground for this purpose near the slave quarters. Slaves would prepare their garden plots after sundown and on Sundays when most had a lighter work schedule.

The problems with planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables were the same for both groups of gardeners; and of course, the slaves knew the challenges well, since they planted and maintained the gardens of their masters. Nature makes no class distinctions. It would be relatively easy to save the seeds for annuals, just as they did for their masters year to year. The wealthy landowner would have his slaves build a wall or intricate fence around his plantation's kitchen garden to keep deer and other interlopers at bay, and his slaves would need to find a way to do the same.

Permitting slaves to independently raise produce, and even livestock, was not new in the 18C Chesapeake. Earlier in 17C Virginia, some masters had allowed their slaves to grow tobacco, corn, horses, hogs, and cattle and to sell them to gain enough money to buy their freedom and the freedom of their wives and children. Sensing that this was a serious threat to their labor pool, in 1692, the Virginia General Assembly ordered slave owners to confiscate "all horses, cattle and hoggs marked of any negro or other slaves marked, or by any slave kept."

Apparently the practice of allowing independent garden plots had begun again in the first half of the 18C or earlier. In 1732, traveller Hugh Grove noted Virginia slaves planting "little Plats for potatoes or Indian pease and Cimnells."

Cimnells were small squash. In addition to field peas and squash, Chesapeake slaves also planted potatoes, beans, onions, and collards. All these crops could be eaten raw, boiled in an old pot, or roasted in the coals of a small fire. Over winter, the slaves could store some of their produce inconspicuously in the ground, banking them just like they did for the master.

In the warmer climate of South Carolina, slaves were growing more familiar heat-loving varieties of vegetables. In the 1720s, Mark Catesby recorded a new variety of yam in South Carolina, calling it, "a welcome improvement among the Negroes," who were "delighted with all their African food, particularly this, which a great part of Africa subsists on." Slaves in the Lowcountry could grow tania roots, millet, sorghum, sesame, peppers, and okra in addition to the traditional colonial vegetables.

In the Chesapeake, those with larger plots might attempt to grow mellons and corn, which required more room to grow and would certainly draw more attention from the gentry; something that might be considered risky by a group of people trying to maintain a low profile just to survive. A good slave did what he was told and kept his mouth shut. The slave might appreciate the autonomy a little patch of garden land would give him, but he wouldn't advertise it.

A few years later, in the 1740s, itinerant Chesapeake traveler, Edward Kimber also mentioned that slaves were cultivating "the little Spots allow'd them."

Slaveowners knew they could learn about both life and gardening from their enslaved servants.

In 1771, Virginian Landon Carter wrote in his diary, "I walkt out this even to see how my very old and honest Slave Jack Lubber did to support life in his Extreme age; and I found him prudently working amongst his melon vines, both to tivert the hours and indeed to keep nature stirring that indigestion might not hurry him off with great pain." Carter took "notice of his Pea Vines a good store and askt him why he had not got them hilled." Lubber replied, "they have not got age wnough and it will hurt too young things to coast them too closely with earth." Carter wrote that his answer showed, "the Prudence of Experience."

In March 1774, New Englander Philip Fithian, who had journeyed south to temporarily tutor the children of Robert Carter at Nomini Hall, watched as, "Negroes make a fence; they drive into the Ground Chesnut stakes about two feet apart in a straight Row, & then twist in the Boughs of Savin which grows in great plenty here." The savin or red cedar would be easy to weave in and out of the more permanent stakes. A month later he noted the plantation's slaves "digging up their small Lots of ground allow'd by their Master for Potatoes, peas &c; All such work for themselves they constantly do on Sundays, as they are otherwise employed on every other Day." One of Robert Carter's slaves offered Fithian "Eggs, Apples, Potatoes."

About 20 years later, Englishman Isaac Weld also wrote of the slave quarters in Virginia: "Adjoining their little habitations, the slaves commonly have small gardens and yards for poultry, which are all their own property… their gardens are generally found well stocked, and their flocks of poultry numerous." If the master allowed his slaves to keep poultry, the slave not only took advantage of the extra food, but also sold some of the chickens for extra spending money.

Virginia planter James Mercer declared that the "Negroes…are the general Chicken merchants" in the state.

In Maryland, as Colonel Nicholas Rogers (1753-1822) planned a new home in the 1780s, he designated an area for the household slaves to plant their own garden. Back of the master's house at the end of this second yard, an area measuring 36' by 82' was dedicated "For Servants' Vegetable Patch or For Other Purposes." Within the area was an 18' by 16' slave quarter with the remainder of this long rectangular plot to be used by the slaves to grow fruits & vegetables.

Peter Hatch, long-time director of Thomas Jefferson's gardens and grounds at Monticello, reports that "Jefferson's Memorandum Books, which detailed virtually every financial transaction that he engaged in between 1769 and 1826, as well as the account ledger kept by his granddaughter, Anne Cary Randolph, between 1805 and 1808, document hundreds of transactions involving the purchase of produce from Monticello slaves."

Hatch calculates that the records show the purchase of 22 species of fruits & vegetables from as many as 43 different individuals..."much of the produce purchased from Monticello slaves was out of season: potatoes were sold in December and February, hominy beans and apples purchased in April, and cucumbers bought in January. Archaeological excavations of slave cabins at Monticello indicate the widespread presence of root cellars, which not only served as secret hiding places, but surely as repositories for root crops and other vegetables amenable to cool, dark storage...

"Both Jefferson and Ann Cary specified the person from whom they purchased vegetables and fruit; however, the person involved in the sale might not have been the one gardening. Thirty-one males, averaging about 37 years of age, and twelve females, averaging 41 years old, were involved in the transactions. Since many of the sellers were older, seven of the males were over fifty, they may have been representing the family garden. Squire, for example, a former Peter Jefferson slave leased by Thomas Jefferson from his mother, represented the most sophisticated garden. He sold thirteen different commodities, including cymlins (a patty-pan-shaped squash), potatoes, lettuce, beets, watermelons, apples, and muskmelons. He sold a cucumber to Jefferson on January 12, 1773, suggesting either that the fruit was pickled and preserved, or that artificial heat in a cold frame or hot bed was used to bring this tender vegetable to fruition in the middle of winter, a rather remarkable feat in 18th-century Virginia. Bagwell, Squire's son-in-law, was also a major supplier, and sold Jefferson sixty pounds of hops for twenty dollars...
"Israel Gillette Jefferson, a waiter and carder in the Monticello cloth factory, represented another productive African American family garden. His father, Ned or Edward Gilette, sold watermelons, beans, and potatoes, while Israel sold large quantities of cabbage, fifty to one hundred at a time. Caesar, a farm laborer at Shadwell, Jefferson's birthplace and a satellite farm to Monticello, was another major supplier of cucumbers, cabbages, and greens, and Burwell Colbert, probably Jefferson's most valued and trusted slave, sold 'sprouts' to Jefferson. Boys and girls were also involved in the bartering process; Billy, at the age of eight, sold strawberries, perhaps collected from the wild, while Madison and Eston Hemings, most likely Jefferson's sons by Sally Hemings, were 15 and 18 when selling 100 cabbages to Jefferson in 1822."

Hatch further notes that "Except for watermelons, and perhaps sweet potatoes, few of the sold fruits and vegetables were either African in origin, or closely associated with African American food culture. Cucumbers were the most common commodity, with 23 transactions, followed by cabbages, watermelons, hops, Irish potatoes, cymlins, and greens."

In 1792, George Washington wrote to English agricultural writer Arthur Young, "Ground is often allowed them for gardening, and priviledge given them to raise dung-hill fowls for their own use."

Julian Niemcewicz reported visitin George Washington's Mount Vernon in 1797. He noted that in the slave quarters, "a small vegetable garden was situated close to the hut. Five or six hens, each with ten or fifteen chickens, walked around there. That is the only pleasure allowed to Negroes: they are not permitted to keep either ducks or geese or pigs. They sell the chickens in Alexandria and with the money buy some furniture."

In Virginia, Englishman John Davis visiting the Spencer Ball plantation in Prince William County about 1800, wrote that one old slave declared, "There is few masters like the `Squire.' He has allowed me to build a log-house, and take in a patch of land, where I raise corn and water Melions." Perhaps it was easier for the older slaves, who usually were not assigned as much heavy labor, to keep an eye on the growing slave gardens.

In Maryland, an 1801 garden plan for Colonel Nicholas Rogers's property in Baltimore indicates a space in one of the far corners of the property "for servants vegetable patch or for other purposes." This garden space that Rogers chose for his slaves was inelegantly bounded by the slave quarter, the privy, and the hog pen. 

Elderly Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, advised his overseer in 1823, that his new slave, "Clem a blacksmith must not have more priveleges than my other slaves or be better fed...he desires a huck patch; these I many of my slaves have that privelege."

Convict servant, who was not a slave, James Revel wrote a poem about his experiences in The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon's Sorrowful Account of His Fourteen Years Transportation, At Virginia, in America.

At last to my new master's house I came,
To the town of Wicowoco called by name,
Here my European cloaths were took from me,
Which never after I could see.

A canvas shirt and trowsers me they gave,

A hop-sack frock, in which I was a slave,
No shoes or stockings had I for to wear,
Nor hat, nor cap, my hands and feet went bare.

Thus dress'd unto the field I next did go,

Among tobacco plants all day to hoe.
At day break in the morn our work begun,
And lasted till the setting of the sun.

My fellow slaves were five transports more,

With eighteen negroes, which is twenty-four,
Besides four transport women in the house,
To wait upon his daughter and his spouse.

We and the negroes both alike did fare,

Of work and food we had an equal share;
And in a piece of ground that's call'd our own,
That we eat first by ourselves was sown.

No other time to us they will allow,

But on a Sunday we the same must do,
Six days we slave for our master's good,
The seventh is to produce our food.

And when our hard day's work is done,

Away unto the mill we must begone.
Till twelve or one o'clock a-grinding corn,
And must be up by day-light in the morn.

The above poem was Published in York, England in 1800, the full text of the book may be found at the site of the collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina and Duke University called Documenting the South.

To see Peter Hatch's full article go to the Twinleaf Journal.

19C America - Everyday working conditions for American slaves

Mr. Eleazar Powel, Chippewa, Beaver county, Pennsylvania, who lived in Mississippi in 1836 and 1837. "The slaves had to cook and eat their breakfast and be in the field by daylight, and continue there till dark.''

Cutting Timber in Montgomery County, Virginia. 1850s. Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867.

Mr. George Westgate, of Quincy, Illinois, who has spent several years in the south western slave states, says: “Their time, after full dark until four o'clock in the morning is their own; this fact alone would seem to say they have sufficient rest, but there are other things to be considered; much of their making, mending and washing of clothes, preparing and cooking food, hauling and chopping wood, fixing and preparing tools, and a variety of little nameless jobs must be done between those hours.”

Driving Cattle in Virginia, Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1854-55), vol. 10, p. 765; also, David Hunter Strother, Virginia Illustrated (New York, 1857; reprinted 1871), p. 132.

Hon. Alenxander Smyth, a slaveholder, and member of Congress from Virginia, in his speech on the "Missouri question,'' Jan. 28, 1820. "Is it not obvious that the way to render their situation more comfortable, is to allow them to be taken where there is not the same motive to force the slave to INCESSANT TOIL that there is in the country where cotton, sugar, and tobacco are raised for exportation. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are HARD WORKED, that they may be rendered unproductive and the race be prevented from increasing...The proposed measure would be EXTREME CRUELTY to the blacks...You would...doom them the HARD LABOR.''

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12 (Aug. 1856), p. 310.

W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, an elder of the Presbyterian Church at Wilkesbarre, says: “The corn is ground in a handmill by the slave after his task is done—generally there is but one mill on a plantation, and as but one can grind at a time, the mill is going sometimes very late at night.”

Cultivating Tobacco 1797 Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sketchbook, III, 33

Mr. Cornelius Johnson, Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi in the years 1837 and 38, says: “On all the plantations where I was acquainted, the slaves were kept in the field till dark; after which, those who had to grind their own corn, had that to attend to, get their supper, attend to other family affairs of their own and of their master, such as bringing water, washing clothes, &c. &c., and be in the field as soon as it was sufficiently light to commence work in the morning.”

Stacking Wheat in Culpepper, Virginia 1863 drawing made by Edwin Forbes (1839-1895) detail

W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, a native of Georgia. "It was customary for the overseers to call out the gangs long before day, say three o'clock, in the winter, while dressing out the crops; such work as could be done by fire light (pitch pine was abundant,) was provided.''

Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867

Mr. Asa A. Stone, a theological student, near Natchez, Mississippi, in 1834 and 1835. "Everybody here knows overdriving to be one of the most common occurrences, the planters do not deny it, except, perhaps, to northerners.''

Harper's Weekly (April 13, 1861), p.232.

Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer of Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1834 and 1835. "During the cotton-picking season they usually labor in the field during the whole of the daylight, and then spend a good part of the night in ginning and baling. The labor required is very frequently excessive, and speedily impairs the constitution.''

Harper's Weekly (Jan 31, 1863), p 68

Hon. R. J. Turnbull of South Carolina, a slaveholder, speaking of the harvesting of cotton, says: "All the pregnant women even, on the plantation, and weak and sickly negroes incapable of other labor, are then in requisition.''

Asa A Stone, theological student, a classical teacher near Natchez, Mississippi, 1835. "It is a general rule on all regular plantations, that the slaves be in the field as soon as it is light enough for them to see to work, and remain there until it is so dark that they cannot see."

Gathering the Sugar Cane 1850s Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853), vol. 9, p. 760.

Mr. Cornelius Johnson, of Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi a part of 1837 and 1838. "It is the common rule for the slaves to be kept at work fifteen hours in the day, and in the time of picking cotton a certain number of pounds is required of each. If this amount is not brought in at night, the slave is whipped, and the number of pounds lacking is added to the next day's job; this course is often repeated from day to day.''

Harper's Weekly (Jan 5, 1867), p 8 2

Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Connnecticul., a resident in North Carolina eleven winters. "The slaves are obliged to work from daylight till dark, as long as they can see.'' 

Making Turpentine in North Carolina Ballou's Pictorial (May 12, 1855), p. 289

Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who resided in Florida in 1834 and 1835. "The slaves commence labor by daylight in the morning, and do not leave the field till dark in the evening.''

House Slaves 1860s The Illustrated London News (May 23, 1863), vol 42, p 552

Quotes from American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839

For information on Images see:, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. If there are any questions, contact Jerome Handler

19C America - Hunger - Everyday food allocations for American slaves

Hon. Alexander Smyth, a slave holder, and for ten years, Member of Congress from Virginia, in his speech on the Missouri question. Jan 28th, 1820. "By confining the slaves to the Southern states, where crops are raised for exportation, and bread and meat are purchased, you doom them to scarcity and hunger. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are ILL FED.''

South Carolina

Rev. George Whitefield, in his letter, to the slave holders of Md. Va. N C. S. C. and Ga. published in Georgia, just one hundred years ago, 1739. "My blood has frequently run cold within me, to think how many of your slaves have not sufficient food to eat; they are scarcely permitted to pick up the crumbs, that fall from their master's table.''

Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee, and for some year's a preacher in slave states. "Thousands of the slaves are pressed with the gnawings of cruel hunger during their whole lives.''

Report of the Gradual Emancipation Society, of North Carolina, 1826. Signed Moses Swain, President, and William Swain, Secretary. Speaking of the condition of slaves, in the eastern part of that state, the report says, "The master puts the unfortunate wretches upon short allowances, scarcely sufficient for their sustenance, so that a great part of them go half starved much of the time.''

Ration Day. Harper's Weekly

Mr. Asa A. Stone, a Theological Student, who resided near Natchez, Miss., in 1834-5. "On almost every plantation, the hands suffer more or less from hunger at some seasons of almost every year. There is always a good deal of suffering from hunger. On many plantations, and particularly in Louisiana, the slaves are in a condition of almost utter famishment, during a great portion of the year.''

Mr. Tobias Boudinot, St. Albans, Ohio, a member of the Methodist Church. Mr. B. for some years navigated the Mississippi. "The slaves down the Mississippi, are half-starved, the boats, when they stop at night, are constantly boarded by slaves, begging for something to eat.''

Hon. Robert Turnbull, a slaveholder of Charleston, South Carolina. "The subsistence of the slaves consists, from March until August, of corn ground into grits, or meal, made into what is called hominy, or baked into corn bread. The other six months, they are fed upon the sweet potato. Meat, when given, is only by way of indulgence or favor.''

Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver Co., Penn., who resided in Mississippi, in 1836-7. "The food of the slaves was generally corn bread, and sometimes meat or molasses.''

Reuben G. Macy, a member of the Society of Friends, Hudson, N. Y., who resided in South Carolina. "The slaves had no food allowed them besides corn, excepting at Christmas, when they had beef.''

Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, and recently of Madison Co., Alabama, now member, of the Presbyterian Church, Delhi, Ohio. "On my uncle's plantation, the food of the slaves, was corn pone and a small allowance of meat.''

Thos. Clay, Esq., of Georgia, a slave holder, in his address before the Georgia Presbytery, 1833. "The quantity allowed by custom is a peck of corn a week!"

The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, May 30, 1788. "A single peck of corn a week, or the like measure of rice, is the ordinary quantity of provision for a hard-working slave; to which a small quantity of meat is occasionally, though rarely, added.''

W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, and Elder in the Presbyterian Church, Wilksbarre, Penn. "The weekly allowance to grown slaves on this plantation, where I was best acquainted, was one peck of corn.''

Wm. Ladd, of Minot, Maine, formerly a slaveholder in Florida. "The usual allowance of food was one quart of corn a day, to a full task hand, with a modicum of salt; kind masters allowed a peck of corn a week; some masters allowed no salt.''

Mr. Jarvis Brewster, in his "Exposition of the treatment of slaves in the Southern States,'' published in N. Jersey, 1815. "The allowance of provisions for the slaves, is one peck of corn, in the grain, per week.''

Rev. Horace Moulton, a Methodist Clergyman of Marlboro', Mass., who lived five years in Georgia. "In Georgia the planters give each slave only one peck of their gourd seed corn per week, with a small quantity of salt.''

Mr. F. C. Macy, Nantucket, Mass., who resided in Georgia in 1820. "The food of the slaves was three pecks of potatos a week during the potato season, and one peck of corn, during the remainder of the year.''

Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, a member of the Baptist Church in Waterford, Conn., who resided in North Carolina, eleven winters. "The subsistence of the slaves, consists of seven quarts of meal or eight quarts of small rice for one week!"

William Savery, late of Philadelphia, an eminent Minister of the Society of Friends, who travelled extensively in the slave states, on a Religious Visitation, speaking of the subsistence of the slaves, says, in his published Journal, "A peck of corn is their (the slaves,) miserable subsistence for a week.''

The late John Parrish, of Philadelphia, another highly respected Minister of the Society of Friends, who traversed the South, on a similar mission, in 1804 and 5, says in his "Remarks on the slavery of Blacks;'' "They allow them but one peck of meal, for a whole week, in some of the Southern states.''

Richard Macy, Hudson, N., Y. a Member of the Society of Friends, who has resided in Georgia. "Their usual allowance of food was one peck of corn per week, which was dealt out to them every first day of the week. They had nothing allowed them besides the corn, except one quarter of beef at Christmas.''

Rev. C. S. Renshaw, of Quincy, Ill., (the testimony of a Virginian.) "The slaves are generally allowanced: a pint of corn meal and a salt herring is the allowance, or in lieu of the herring a "dab'' of fat meat of about the same value. I have known the sour milk, and clauber to be served out to the hands, when there was an abundance of milk on the plantation. This is a luxury not often afforded."

Professor A. G. Smith, of the New York Medical College; formerly a physician in Louisville, Kentucky. "I have myself known numerous instances of large families of badly-fed negroes swept off by a prevailing epidemic; and it is well known to many intelligent planters in the south, that the best method of preventing that horrible malady, Chachexia Africana, is to feed the negroes with nutritious food."

Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, and member of the Presbyterian church, who lived in Florida, in 1834, and 1835. "The slaves go to the field in the morning; they carry with them corn meal wet with water, and at noon build a fire on the ground and bake it in the ashes. After the labors of the day are over, they take their second meal of ash-cake.''

Mr. Eleazar Powell, Chippewa, Beaver county, Penn., who resided in Mississippi in 1836 and 1837. "The slaves received two meals during the day. Those who have their food cooked for them get their breakfast about eleven o'clock, and their other meal after night.''

Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Conn., who spent eleven winters in North Carolina. "The breakfast of the slaves was generally about ten or eleven o'clock.''

Rev. Phineas Smith, Centreville, N. Y., who has lived at the south some years. "The slaves have usually two meals a day, viz: at eleven o'clock and at night.''

Rev. C. S. Renshaw, Quincy, Illinois, —the testimony of a Virginian. "The slaves have two meals a day. They breakfast at from ten to eleven, A. M., and eat their supper at from six to nine or ten at night, as the season and crops may be.''

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839.

Buying, Selling, & Transporting Slaves in 19C America

 1830 Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

An engraving, captioned "United States Slave Trade. 1830" which shows slaves in shackles, whites holding whips; capital dome in Washington, D.C. is in background.

Coffle of Enslaved, Washington, D.C., 1840s. Slavery and the slave trade at the nation's capital (New York,1846)

Slave Auction in Charleston, South Carolina. 1853 The Illustrated London News (Nov. 29, 1856), vol. 29, p. 555.

Slave Auction in Christiansburg, Virginia, 1850s. Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867.

Slave Auction in Richmond, Virginia 1853. The Illustrated London News (Sept. 27, 1856), vol. 29, p. 315.

Slave Auction, New Orleans, 1839. James Buckingham, The Slave States of America (London, 1842), vol. 1,  detail

Slave Auction, Richmond, Virginia, 1861. The Illustrated London News (Feb. 16, 1861), vol. 38, p.139.

Slave Auction, United States. Henry Bibb, Narrative of the life and adventures of Henry Bibb, an American slave, written by himself (New York, 1849), p. 201.

Slave Sale in New Orleans, 1861. The Illustrated London News (Jan-June, 1861), vol. 38, p. 307. detail

Slaves Waiting to be Sold, Richmond, Virginia 1853. The Illustrated London News (Sept. 27, 1856), vol. 29, p. 315.

Examining a Slave for Sale in Virginia 1830. Frances Trollope, Domestic manners of the Americans (London, 1832), vol. 2, facing p. 18  Caption, "Live Stock, Virginia, 1830." The author was in the United States from late 1827 to around 1830-31. This illustration is found in her chapter on Virginia and her discussion of slavery in the state, but she does not describe what the illustration is supposed to convey. The scene is the interior of a cabin, a bed in the right-hand corner; a calabash ladle or drinking gourd hangs on the wall. The black man with the cane, and the white man behind him with his hands on the black man's chest.

Slave Sale in Richmond, Virginia 1861. The Illustrated London News (Feb. 16, 1861), p. 138.

Kidnapping a Free Person to Sell as a Slave, U.S. South, 1830s. George Bourne, Picture of slavery in the United State of America. .  (Boston, 1838)  Captioned, "Kidnapping," this illustration shows the kidnapping of a free person of color to sell him as a slave. "Nothing is more common," the author writes, "than for two of these white partners in kidnapping . . . to start upon the prowl; and if they find a freeman on the road, to demand his certificate, tear it in pieces, or secrete it, tie him to one of their horses, hurry off to some jail, while one whips the citizen along as fast as their horses can travel. There by an understanding with the jailor who shares in the spoil, all possibility of intercourse with his friends is denied the stolen citizen. At the earliest possible period, the captive is sold out to pay the felonious claims of the law . . . and then transferred to some of their accomplices of iniquity . . . who fill every part of the southern states with rapine, crime, and blood" (p. 120).

Branding Slaves. William O. Blake, The History of Slavery and the Slave Trade (Columbus, Ohio, 1857), p. 97

Slave Coffel in Kentucky 1857. Anon., The Suppressed Book About Slavery! Prepared for Publication in 1857 (New York, 1864), facing p. 49.  "The Coffle Gang" is led by white on horseback and black musicians at the front. In an eye-witness account of the scene depicted in this illustration is given on pp. 164-65, the scene described is of "about forty men, all chained together. . . . Behind them were about thirty women, in double rank, the couples tied hand to hand...."

Slaves walking from Staunton, Virginia to Tennessee 1850s Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867.  “Slave trader, Sold to Tennessee,” this water color shows a group of about 20 men, women, and children, being marched from Staunton, in Augusta county, Virginia to Tennessee; guarding the group are two white men on horseback. In the caption underneath, Miller writes “ The company going to Tennessee from Staunton, Augusta county, the law of Virginia suffered them to go on. I was astonished at this boldness, the carrier stopped a moment, then ordered the march, I saw the play it is commonly in this state, when the negro’s in droves Sold.”

Slave Coffel in Virginia 1839. James Buckingham, The Slave States of America (London, 1842), vol. 2, facing p. 553.

Slaves being driven to Lower South from Virginia, 1862. Harper's Weekly (November 8, 1862), p.713.

American Slavery As It Is

Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


Mr. Sapington, is a repentant “soul driver” or slave trader, now a citizen of Lancaster, Pa. He gives the following testimony in a letter dated, Jan. 21, 1839.
 “I was born in Maryland, afterwards moved to Virginia, where I commenced the business of farming and trafficking in slaves...Pursuing my assumed right of driving souls, I went to the Southern part of Virginia for the purpose of trafficking in slaves. In that part of the state, the cruelties practised upon the slaves, are far greater than where I lived...I was then selling a drove of slaves, which I had brought by water from Baltimore, my conscience not allowing me to drive, as was generally the case uniting the slaves by collars and chains, and thus driving them under the whip...

"On preparing for my removal to the state of Pennsylvania, it became necessary for me to go to Louisville, in Kentucky, where, if possible, I became more horrified with the impositions practiced upon the negro than before. There a slave was sold to go farther south, and was hand-cuffed for the purpose of keeping him secure. But choosing death rather than slavery, he jumped overboard and was drowned. When I returned four weeks afterwards his body, that had floated three miles below, was yet unburied. One fact; it is impossible for a person to pass through a slave state, if he has eyes open, without beholding every day cruelties repugnant to humanity."

For more images and information see:, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library." If there are any questions, contact Jerome Handler