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Guide to the Slavery Collection
1709-1899
 MS 569

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Megan Hahn. Machine-readable finding aid created by Melissa Haley, March 2002, and Alex Poole, August 2009. Entered in Archivists' Toolkit by Jefferson Bailey, October 2010.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 14, 2013
Description is in English
using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: Slavery Collection
Dates: 1709-1899
Abstract: The Slavery Collection contains correspondence and legal and financial documents related to the North American slave trade, slave ownership, abolition, and political issues pertinent to slavery. Note that the Slavery Collection materials have been digitized and can be found here.
Quantity: 2.75 Linear feet (7 boxes)
Call Phrase: MS 569

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Scope and Contents note

The Slavery Collection contains correspondence and legal and financial documents related to the North American slave trade, slave ownership, abolition, and political issues pertinent to slavery. These materials have all been digitized and can be viewed here.

The Slavery Collection is called an "artificial" collection because a third party placed unrelated items together according to subject matter.

Researchers who have used this collection in the past, or those following citations in published sources, should be aware that it was rearranged in 1999 in order to facilitate intellectual and physical access. Certain material that formerly was not arranged, or was arranged chronologically, is now arranged by format. For example, depositions are now grouped together, rather than being interfiled with accounts, receipts or deeds of manumission.

Arrangement note

See series descriptions for arrangement.

This collection is organized into the following eleven series:

  1. Series I - Samuel and William Vernon, 1756-1799
  2. Series II - Gardner and Dean, 1771-1807
  3. Series III - Material relating to slavery in Kentucky, 1785-1864
  4. Series IV - E. H. Stokes, 1859-1862 and undated
  5. Series V - Correspondence, 1766-1895
  6. Series VI - Manifests, 1812-1855
  7. Series VII - Legal Documents, 1709-1858 and undated
  8. Series VIII - Financial Documents, 1726-1862 and undated
  9. Series IX - Poetry, 1823 and undated
  10. Series X - Memoranda, 1790, 1791, 1799, 1800, 1855 and undated
  11. Series XI - Clippings, 1718-1899 and undated

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Bolton, Charles, of Barbados
  • Brown, Samuel, of Boston
  • Duncan, John, Ship Captain
  • Godfrey, Caleb
  • Grimke, Angelina Emily, 1805-1879
  • Hopewell, Hugh
  • Johnson, Samuel, Ship Captain
  • Moran, Richard
  • Rogers, Thomas, Ship Captain
  • Rux, A. J.
  • Smith, Gerrit, 1797-1874
  • Stokes, E.H.
  • Taggart, Samuel C.
  • Taylor, William, Ship Captain
  • Thornton, John, of Fredericksburg, Va.
  • Vernon, Samuel
  • Vernon, William, 1719-1806
  • Weld, Theodore Dwight, 1803-1895
  • White, Thomas, Merchant
  • Wood, Joseph, Merchant
  • Yates, Charles, 1727-1809

Document Type

  • Accounts
  • Birth certificates
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Deeds
  • Estate inventories
  • Indentures
  • Receipts
  • Ships' manifests

Subject Organizations

  • Active. (Schooner)
  • Adams and Griffith.
  • Ascension. (Ship)
  • Casada Gardin.
  • Gardner and Dean.
  • Hare. (Sloop)
  • Little Sally. (Schooner)
  • Louisa. (Sloop)
  • Marigold. (Brig)
  • Orange. (Ship)
  • Othello. (Ship)
  • Pacific. (Ship)
  • Royall Charlotte. (Brig)
  • TittBitt. (Sloop)
  • Venus. (Ship)

Subject Topics

  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Fugitive slaves--United States
  • Slave bills of sale--United States
  • Slave records--United States
  • Slave traders--Rhode Island
  • Slave traders--United States
  • Slave-trade--Rhode Island
  • Slave-trade--United States
  • Slave-trade--West Indies
  • Slaveholders--United States
  • Slavery--United States

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Conditions Governing Use note

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to

Library Director
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation note

This collection should be cited as the Slavery Collection, MS 569, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials note

The Slavery Collection in its entirety can be found online at the N-YHS website.

Click here for the digitized Slavery Collection.

Separated Materials note

Items found in the collection that clearly did not relate to the subject of slavery, either directly or indirectly, were separated from the collection and placed where more appropriate. Every effort has been made to correct all the catalogue cards that index items that have been transferred to new locations.

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Container List

Series I - Samuel and William Vernon, 1756-1799, 1756-1799

Scope and Contents note

Brothers Samuel and William Vernon were business partners involved in the triangular trade that sent rum from Rhode Island to Africa, bought slaves in Africa to sell in the West Indies or in the southern colonies, and brought molasses back to Rhode Island. See the Dictionary of American Biography entry on William Vernon for further information about his role in American politics and other business interests.

Subseries 1 - Correspondence, 1756-1796, 1756-1796

Scope and Contents note

Most of the letters in this series are addressed to the Vernons in Newport, Rhode Island, from the masters of their slave ships and from slave dealers in the West Indies, Virginia, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Some frequent correspondents were the firm of Adams and Griffin in Richmond, Va., Charles Bolton of Barbados, Samuel Brown of Boston, John Thornton and Charles Yates of Fredericksburg, Va., Capt. Caleb Godfrey, Capt. John Duncan, Capt. Thomas Rogers, and Capt. William Taylor. The letters of these and other men to the Vernons report shipboard incidents, progress of sales in the South and plans for return of ships to Newport. The series also contains letters from the Vernons to their business partners or the masters of their ships and frequently include instructions for the sale of slaves or cargo.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Letters received A #1-12, 14-39, 47
1756-1772
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Letters received B #6-7, 10, 13-25, 28 and 1 unnumbered item
1755-1795
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Letters received C #5, 7, 19 and 1 unnumbered item
1752-1798
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Letters received D #9-10, 14-36
1754-1771
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Letters received E #1-2
1771-1772
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Letters received G #1, 3-15
1754-1756
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Letters received H #5, 20
1769, 1774
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Letters received K #11-12
1774, 1775
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Letters received M #12-16
1754-1755
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Letters received N-O-P #1, 12-16
1751-1796
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Letters received R #3-5, 7-13, 16, 22-23 and 2 unnumbered items
1764-1775
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Letters received S #26, 44, 56-57 and 1 unnumbered item
1758-1799
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Letters received T #5-14, 16-26, 31
1756-1774
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Letters sent and received V #34-50 and 14 unnumbered items
1755-1793
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Letters received W, Y #19-20, 24, 28-30
1756-1773

Subseries 2 - Business Papers, 1756-1799, 1756-1799

Scope and Contents note

Arranged alphabetically by name of ship, then by format for those not attributed to a particular ship. This subseries contains crew lists, accounts of sales and purchases of slaves, invoices, bills of lading, records of wages to ship crews, ship expenses, accounts of sales of goods in Africa, cargo manifests and trade books of the Vernons' slave ships.

The voyages of the Othello are the most well-documented in the collection; papers relating to this ship include accounts, receipts, memoranda, copies of correspondence, trade books and account books. A 45-page trade book of  Othello, 1764-5 is housed in Box 7, an oversize box. In folder 11, "Depositions and Memoranda re: Vernon vs. Rogers," are papers dated 1766 regarding the Vernons' legal action against Thomas Rogers, captain of the  Othello, for disobeying their orders to sail directly to Georgia or South Carolina after leaving Barbados. Instead Rogers sailed to St. Christopher's where there was an insurrection, which resulted in the death of 11 slaves. The Vernons sought redress regarding the loss of revenue from unsold slaves.

The ship Royall Charlotte is represented by accounts, receipts, memoranda and a 16-page trade book. In addition to an account, there is one deposition, dated April 4, 1799, related to the ship  Orange, which refers to damage to the ship when it hit a reef off the coast of the Bahamas during a return voyage. There are accounts and an 86-page trade book of the ship Venus housed in this subseries. This subseries also includes accounts for the ships  Adventures, Ascension, Casada Gardin, Hare, Little Sally, Lydia, Marigold, Nancy, Pacific, and  TittBitt.

A 24-page trade book of an unidentified vessel and a 20-page fragment of an account book for an unidentified vessel were placed in this series because they were originally kept with the other volumes specifically attributed to the ships of the Vernons and the format and handwriting match the others.

Folder 20 houses fragments of letters and accounts, and a clipping of a three-page article entitled, Account of a late Publication intitled 'The Origin of the Negroe Slave Trade,' By Matthias Christian Sprengel.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Schooner Active Trading Book, Sloop  Adventures accounts
1769-1770
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Ship Ascension accounts
1796-1800
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Ship Casada Gardin accounts
1759-1760
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Sloop Hare accounts
1754-1756, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Schooner Little Sally accounts, Sloop  Lydia accounts
1763- 1765, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Brigantine Marigold accounts, Sloop  Nancy accounts
1759-1764, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Brigantine Orange account and deposition
1799
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Brigantine Othello Papers (1 of 2) accounts, receipts, memoranda, letters
1763-1775, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Brigantine Othello Papers (2 of 2)
1765-1775, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Brigantine Othello Volumes
1769-1774, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Papers re: Vernon vs. Rogers
1766, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Ship Pacific
1789
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Brigantine Royall Charlotte accounts, receipts, memoranda and book of trade
1761-1775, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Sloop TittBitt
1756, 1757
Box: 2 Folder : 15 Snow Venus, Trade Book
1756-1757
Box: 2 Folder : 16 Trade book of vessel (unidentified)
1774-1775
Box: 2 Folder : 17 Account Book Fragment (unidentified)
1767
Box: 2 Folder : 18 Accounts
1754-1799, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 19 Bills and Receipts
1754-1787, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 20 Clippings and fragments
1755, 1784, undated
Box: 7 Brigantine Othello trade book

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Series II - Gardner and Dean, 1771-1807, 1771-1807

Scope and Contents note

This series contains correspondence and business papers of the Rhode Island slave trading firm of Gardner and Dean.

Subseries 1 - Correspondence, 1804-1807, 1804-1807

Scope and Contents note

Arranged alphabetically by last name of sender. This subseries consists of letters to Gardner and Dean, mostly from the firm of Phillips and Gardner, their South Carolina counterpart, and from Samuel C. Taggart, Thomas White and Joseph Wood.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Correspondence P#18; T#1, 2; W#14, 15, 26
1804-1807

Subseries 2 - Business papers, 1771, 1805-1807 and undated, 1771, 1805-1807 and undated

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Accounts of the Sloop Louisa dated 1771, and 1805 to 1806, and accounts and receipts not attributable to particular ships dated from 1805 to 1807 make up this series.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Sloop Louisa papers
1771, 1805-1807, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Accounts and receipts
1805-1806, undated

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Series III - Material collected related to slavery in Kentucky, 1785-1864, 1785-1864

Scope and Contents note

These estate inventories, deeds of gift, deeds of manumission, bills and receipts of sale, ranging in date from 1785 to 1864, are all from Kentucky, and most are from Lincoln or Fayette Counties. These items were arranged chronologically because one piece often served two different, if related, functions. See attached calendar for further information.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Kentucky material
1785-1799
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Kentucky material
1800-1809
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Kentucky material
1811-1819
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Kentucky material
1820-1829
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Kentucky material
1830-1838
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Kentucky material
1841-1850
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Kentucky material
1851-1864

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Series IV - E.H. Stokes, 1859-1862 and undated, 1859-1862

Subseries 1 - Letters received, 1859-1862, 1859-1862

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Letters to Stokes in Richmond, Virginia, concern the sale of slaves, including ten from A. J. Rux, apparently serving as Stokes' agent in various locations in Alabama.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : A E.H. Stokes, letters received
1859-1862

Subseries 2 - Receipts, 1860, 1862, and undated, 1860, 1862, and undated

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Receipts for sales of slaves in Richmond, Virginia.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : B E.H. Stokes, receipts
1860, 1862, undated

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Series V - Correspondence, 1766-1895, 1766-1895

Scope and Contents note

Arranged alphabetically by last name of sender.

Note to researchers: A number of items originally housed in this collection were transferred to more appropriate places (for example, much was organized into the Vernon Correspondence series). Therefore, the letter and number combination item identification will not always be consecutive (e.g., C#3 is followed by C#17).

The correspondence series includes letters from, among others, eminent abolitionists such as Theodore Weld, Gerrit Smith and Angelina Grimke.

Items A#44-46 are letters to the printers of the Lewes Journal and The Diary regarding the abolition of the slave trade and are signed "Atticus."

Items F#14 and H#14 both refer to the same court case concerning Jack, a slave sentenced to death for stealing from his master. Both the master, Hugh Hopewell of Saint Mary's County, Maryland, and his friend Colonel Fitzhugh wrote to the Governor of Maryland asking for mercy for Jack, stating that because of his value as a slave and his sincere remorse for the crime, he should not be put to death.

Also of note is a letter written by an unidentified black man apologizing to his uncle for marrying a white woman, which can be found in the "Letters Unsigned" folder.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Correspondence A #44-46
1789, 1796
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Correspondence B #9, 11-12, 1 unnumbered item
1766, 1774, 1816, 1843
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Correspondence C #2-3, 17, and 2 unnumbered items
1789, 1803, 1840, 1864
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Correspondence D #1-4, 12
1793, 1800, 1806, 1851
Box: 5 Folder : 5 Correspondence F #11-12, 14, 17 and 1 unnumbered item
1766, 1784, 1807, 1826, 1850
Box: 5 Folder : 6 Correspondence G #2, 22-23
1789, undated
Box: 5 Folder : 7 Correspondence H-J #11, 14, and 3 unnumbered items
1766, 1806, 1810, 1831, 1888, 1895
Box: 5 Folder : 8 Correspondence K #5, and 1 unnumbered item
1784, 1837
Box: 5 Folder : 9 Correspondence L-M #7, 9, 28 and 2 unnumbered items
1793, 1836, 1841, 1849, 1850, 1857
Box: 5 Folder : 10 Correspondence N #9, 17
1787, 1826
Box: 5 Folder : 11 Correspondence R #1, 17-18
1754, 1786
Box: 5 Folder : 12 Correspondence S #24, 31-42, 45 and 1 unnumbered item
1785-1861
Box: 5 Folder : 13 Correspondence T-V #3-4, 27, 32-33
[1787], 1806, 1834, 1837
Box: 5 Folder : 14 Correspondence W #5-7, 9-11, 18, 25 and 1 unnumbered item
1806-1858
Box: 5 Folder : 15 Letters unsigned
1826-1851, undated

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Series VI - Manifests, 1812-1855, 1812-1855

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically.

These manifests list Negroes, Mulattos, and persons of color taken aboard various vessels to be transported, mostly from Alexandria, Va., to be sold or disposed of as slaves. These documents list the slave's name, sex, age, height, color, owner or shipper's name and place of residence, and the consignee's name and place of residence.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 16 Manifests
1838-1849
Box: 5 Folder : 17 Manifests
1812-1855

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Series VII - Legal Documents, 1709-1858, and undated, 1709-1858, and undated

Subseries 1 - Birth Certificates, 1800-1818, 1800-1818

Scope and Contents note

Arranged alphabetically by last name of the slave-holder. Certificates usually include information such as the slave-holders occupation, the mother's name, and the date of birth and sex of the child.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 18 Birth certificates, A-D
1801-1818
Box: 5 Folder : 19 Birth certificates, F-M
1800-1818
Box: 5 Box : 20 Birth certificates, N-Z
1802-1817

Subseries 2 - Depositions, 1746-1839, 1746-1839

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Assorted depositions relating to slave ownership and trade from New York, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland. One item in French from Martinique regarding a vessel from Rhode Island captained by Samuel Johnson.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Depositions
1746-1839

Subseries 3 - Petitions, 1709/1780, 1777, and undated, 1709-1777, undated

Scope and Contents note

Assorted petitions from South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Massachusetts.

The deposition from Massachusetts is actually two petitions, one on either side of the paper. The earlier is dated January 1709, from the court of general sessions in Boston, Mass., and the petitioner is Jack, a negro, servant to Samuel Bill. Jack testifies that he has a marriage agreement with Esther, a servant of Robert Gutteridge, however, Gutteridge refuses to give his consent to the marriage. The second petition is from the Council and house of representatives in General Court in Boston assembled March 1780. Mercy Turner of Pembrook seeks to divorce her husband Philip Turner of Scituate whose "conduct and behavior is utterly inconsistent with the marriage covenant."

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Petitions
1709-1777, undated

Subseries 4 - Indentures, 1749, 1797, 1797, undated

Scope and Contents note

The earlier indenture is from New York and states that Walter Butler, Jr. of the Mohawks agrees to "keep and maintain... a N[egro] boy called Primus for three years." The later is a partially printed form dated 1797, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania declaring that Negro Joseph, a manumitted slave, indentures himself for 14 years to John Delaval.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Indentures
1797, undated

Subseries 5 - Deeds of manumission, 1782-1792, 1812, 1782-1792, 1812

Scope and Contents note

Three of the five items in this series are deeds of manumission signed by Robert Carter of Nomony Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia, dated January 2, 1792.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Deeds of manumission
1782-1792, 1812

Subseries 6 - Estate inventories/property appraisals, 1759-1858, and undated, 1759-1858, and undated

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Assorted estate inventories and property appraisals that make provisions for slaves from Alabama, New York and other places not named.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 5 Estate inventories/ property appraisals
1759-1858, undated

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Series VIII - Financial Documents, 1726-1862, and undated, 1726-1862, and undated

Subseries 1 - Accounts, 1736-1807, undated, 1736-1807, undated

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. This subseries contains assorted accounts relating to slave ownership and trade from Georgia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Havana and places not named.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 6 Accounts
1736-1807, undated

Subseries 2 - Receipts and exchanges, 1726-1862, 1726-1862

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Includes assorted receipts and exchanges for slaves from Pennsylvania, New York, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 7 Receipts and exchanges
1726-1862

Subseries 3 - John Joyce, Receipts, 1785-1790, 1785-1790

Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically. Contains receipts for sale of slaves in Kingston, Jamaica, including two in Spanish.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 8 Receipts of John Joyce
1785-1790

Subseries 4 - "Returns of taxable property," 1814, 1819, 1814, 1819

Scope and Contents note

This subseries houses two printed forms, one completed with information for all the taxable property in St. Paul's Parish, [Charleston, S. C.] 1814, and one for the taxable property of John Cart, Jr. St. Michael's Parish, Charleston District [Charleston, S. C.], 1819.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 9 Returns of taxable property
1814, 1819

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Series IX - Poetry, 1823 and undated, 1823 and undated

Scope and Contents note

One poem is entitled, "On the death of an African slave," signed Elihu, Dec. 11, 1823 and is addressed to Alden Spooner, Brooklyn, headed, "For the Long Island Star." The first lines read: "Well, old Free-born is dead! and his servitude oe'r/ Let the winds bear his corpse to the African shoreâ?¦" The other poem, addressed to the Rev. W. McLain, is untitled, unsigned and undated. The last stanza reads: "'Tho' the African, sir, may seem very fur/ to some 'cause he's sable --I thinks/ in the great chain of brothers, he's near, and dear sir!!/ should be treated as one of the lynx."

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 10 Poetry
1823, undated

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Series X - Memoranda, 1790-1855, and undated, 1790-1855, and undated

Scope and Contents note

This series includes, among other things, what appear to be notes for newspaper advertisements and articles. Items are from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island and New York. Also one document in French, dated Philadelphia, September 5, 1791 listing the population of the states and the number of slaves in each state.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 11 Memoranda
1790-1855, undated

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Series XI - Clippings, 1718-1899 and undated, 1718-1899 and undated

Scope and Contents note

This series includes assorted advertisements for rewards for return of runaway slaves, most unattributable to particular newspapers.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 12 Clippings
1718-1899, Undated

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