The Edmondson Sisters


Who where the Edmonson’s Sister? They were black American sisters, who became celebrities because of the Pearl Incident of 1848.

Mary Edmonson (1832–1853) and Emily Edmonson (1835–1895), were two of thirteen children born to a free black man and an enslaved woman Paul and Amelia Edmonson, in Montgomery County, Maryland. They were born into slavery as well as their siblings, since the 17th century law stated “to all slave decreed that the children of an enslave mother inherited their mother’s status, by the principle of partus sequitur ventrem“.

Their father, Paul Edmonson was free by his own will. Mr. Edmonson purchased land in the Norbeck area of Montgomery County, where he farmed and established his family. Amelia was allowed to live with her husband, but continued to work for her master. The couple’s children began work at an early age as servants, laborers and skilled workers. From about the ages of 13 or 14, they were “hired out” to work in elite private homes in nearby Washington D.C. under a type of lease arrangement, where their wages went to the slaveholder. This practice of “hiring out” grew from the shift away from the formerly labor-intensive tobacco plantation system, leaving planters in this part of the United States with surplus slaves. They hired out slaves or sold them to traders for the Deep South. Many slaves worked as servants in homes and hotels of the capital. Men were sometimes hired out as craftsmen, artisans or to work at the ports on the Potomac River.


By 1848 four of the older Edmonson sisters had bought their freedom (with the help of husbands and family), but the master had decided against allowing any more of the siblings to do so. Six were hired out for his benefit, including the two youngest sisters.

On April 15, 1848, the schooner Pearl docked at a Washington wharf. The Edmonson sisters and four of their brothers joined a large group of slaves (a total of 76) in an attempt to escape on the Pearl to freedom in New Jersey. Starting as a modest attempt of escape for seven slaves, the effort had been widely communicated and organized within the communities of free blacks and slaves, changing it to a major and unified effort, without the knowledge of the white organizers or crew. Seventy-seven slaves boarded the Pearl, which was to sail down the Potomac River and up the Chesapeake Bay to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, from where they would travel up the Delaware River to freedom in New Jersey, a total of 225 miles. At the time, Emily was 13 years old and Mary was 15 or 16.

The Pearl, with the fugitives hidden among boxes, began its way down the Potomac. It was delayed overnight by the shift in tides and then had to wait out rough weather from its anchor down the bay. In Washington the alarm was raised in the morning, as numerous slaveholders found their slaves had escaped. When the Pearl arrived in Washington, a mob awaited the ship. The fugitive slaves were taken to a local jail and later sold to the Deep South. It was later reported that when somebody from the crowd asked the Edmonson girls if they were ashamed for what they had done, Emily replied proudly that they would do exactly the same thing again.

In New Orleans, the other siblings were forced to stay for days in an open porch facing the street waiting for buyers. The sisters were handled brusquely and exposed to obscene comments. Then yellow fever epidemic erupted in New Orleans. The slave traders transported the Edmonson sisters back to Alexandria as a measure to protect their investments.

In Alexandria, the Edmonson sisters were hired out to do laundering, ironing and sewing, with wages going to the slave traders. They were locked up at night. Paul Edmonson continued his campaign to free his daughters while Bruin & Hill demanded $2,250 for their release.

With letters from Washington-area supporters, Paul Edmonson met Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887), a young preacher with a church in Brooklyn, New York who was known to support abolitionism. Beecher’s church members raised the funds to purchase the Edmonson sisters and give them freedom. Beecher went to Washington to arrange the transaction.

Mary Edmonson and Emily Edmonson were emancipated on November 4, 1848. The family gathered for a celebration at another sister’s house in Washington. Beecher’s continued to contribute money to send the sisters to school for their education. They first enrolled at New York Central College, an interracial institution in Cortland, New York. They also worked as cleaning servants to support themselves.


The sisters became celebrities in the United States abolitionist movement, in the summer of 1850, they attended the Slave Law Convention, an anti-slavery meeting in Cazenovia, New York organized by local abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld (November 23, 1803 – February 3, 1895), to demonstrate against the Fugitive Slave Act soon passed by the United States Congress. Under this act, slave owners had powers to arrest fugitive slaves in the North. The convention declared all slaves to be prisoners of war and warned the nation of an unavoidable insurrection of slaves unless they were emancipated.

In 1853, the Edmonson sisters attended the Young Ladies Preparatory School at Oberlin College in Ohio through the support of Beecher and his sister, Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896), author of Uncle Tom Cabin. Since its founding in the 1830s, the school had admitted blacks as well as whites, and was a center of abolitionist activism. Six months after arriving at Oberlin, Mary Edmonson died of tuberculosis.

At age 25 in 1860, Emily Edmonson married Larkin Johnson. They returned to the Sandy Springs, Maryland area and lived there for twelve years before moving to Anacostia in Washington, DC. There they purchased land and became founding members of the Hillsdale community, Emily along with her husband remained working in the abolitionist movement, until her death on September 15, 1895.







Pearl Incident Of 1848


The Pearl Incident in 1848 (fourteen years before United States 16th president Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865), signed the (D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862), was the largest recorded nonviolent escape attempt by slaves in United States history.

Daniel and Mary Bell initiated the planning for the largest slave escape in the history of United States. Daniel was a free African American blacksmith working in the Navy Yard in the District of Columbia. Mary Bell was still a slave and as well as their children according to the “Partus Sequitur Ventrem “that the child followed the status that of his or her mother”. Daniel tried many times to purchase his wife and children freedom form their owner, but was unsuccessful in do so.

The escape was organized by both whites and free blacks, including free black Paul Jennings (1799–1874), a former slave to United States 4th President James Madison, Jr. (March 5,1751 – June 28, 1836). The Bells approached William Lawrence Chaplin (October 27, 1796 – April 28, 1871), a radical abolitionist who before helped several Washington D.C. slaves successfully run away before. Chaplin contacted a fellow activist in Philadelphia who recommended Daniel Drayton to organize the escape. Chaplin and abolitionist of New York Gerrit Smith (March 6, 1797 – December 28, 1874), provided the financial backing for the mission and Drayton took care of the details. Drayton found a ship and willing partner in Edward Sayres, the captain of the 54-ton schooner, The Pearl. Sayres only other crew was Chester English, a cook. News of the Pearl spread like wildfire through the slave community.

When Drayton arrived to Washington shortly before the voyage, he met with one of his contacts who told him that the plan had change dramatically. Drayton stated that he would welcome anyone who arrived on the boat “before eleven o’clock… the others would have to remain behind”.

Late in the evening of April 14, 1848, slaves across the city and surrounding areas slipped away and crept through the city, making their way to the Pearl. When Drayton and his crewman docked at the Wharf, they had no idea that there would seventy-six enslaved men, women, and children awaiting, including members of Jennings family and the Edmonson sisters. Drayton and Sayres accepted the risk of transporting them, and the slaves boarded the ship.

The Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay provided a water route to the free states. The plan was to sail down the Potomac River, and then end up at the Chesapeake Bay to Philadelphia, where the fugitives could hide from their white masters and live in freedom. The voyage would cover approximately 225 miles of water: 100 miles down the Potomac River, then 125 miles North up the Chesapeake Bay.

Casting off in the dark, the Pearl easily down the Potomac River, but when they approached the mouth of the river, tides and fierce winds prevented the ship from entering the Chesapeake Bay. The only option was to anchor for the night and hoping that any pursuit would be delayed as well.

At daybreak on Sunday, numerous slaveholders awoke to find no blaze in their fireplaces and no breakfast on their tables, then they realized their slaves were gone and they were outraged. A wealthy white slave owner from New England and had four slaves that also escape on the Pearl, owned a small steam boat called the Salem Volunteered to pursuit of the Pearl with 35 armed white men, and local law enforcement officers. The party of the Salem found the Pearl early Monday morning near Point Lookout in Maryland. The armed men quickly boarded the ship, realizing they was outnumbered the slaves along with their saviors surrendered and was towed back to Washington to face the consequences of their actions.

When the ship and slaves were brought back to Washington, supporters of slavery were outraged by the attempted slave escape, and a angry mob formed. The Pearl crew were paraded in chains in Washington, and the mob attack Drayton. The rioters fixated on Gamaliel Bailey, publisher of The New Era, an anti-slavery newspaper. They were convinced that Bailey had helped plan the mass escape (which he had not), because of his record of abolitionist publishing. The rioters threw bricks and stones and broke out the windows of the Era’s press office, no further damage was done to Bailey or his office.

Once the rioters dissipated, the slave owners debated how to punish their slaves. On April 21, 1848 they sold all seventy-six slaves who were involved in the Pearl Incident to slave traders from Georgia and Louisiana, who then sold them in the Deep South and the New Orleans slave market. There they would likely be sold to work on the large sugar and cotton plantation, where they would labor for the rest of their lives under the unforgiven sun of the South.

Daniel Drayton and Edward Sayres were charged with 77 counts each of aiding the escape – one count or each slave – and transporting the slaves. Cook Chester English was released because he had no knowledge of the Pearl’s cargo or destination. Educator Horace Mann, who had helped the slaves from the La Amistad mutiny, was hired as their attorney.

A jury convicted both Drayton and Sayres, and they were given prison sentences because neither could pay their fines and court costs, a total of about $10,000. After the men had served four years of their prison sentence, abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner petitioned the president for their release. In 1852, President Millard Fillmore pardoned Drayton and Sayres, who were by then widely admired in the black community.

In response to the escape attempt and the riot, Congress ended the slave trade in the District of Columbia, although it did not abolish slavery. Prohibiting the slave trade was a provision of the Compromise of 1850, which dealt primarily with the issue of how new states in the West would be admitted, as to the question of slavery for them.

Sixty-eight years later in 1916, historian John H. Paynter discovered that a slave named Judson Diggs was a driver who had been hired to take two slaves to the Wharf that April night in 1848. They arrived just in time to board the Pearl before it set sail. Diggs became irate when the men had no money to pay him for the ride.

When news spread the following day about the mass slave exodus, Diggs reported what he had observed at the dock that night. Paynter wrote: “Judson Diggs, one of their own people, a man who in all reason might have been expected to sympathize with their effort, took upon himself the role of Judas”.








Minstrel Show


The Minstrel show, or Minstrelsy, was an form of entertainment developed in the United States of America. Minstrel show were popular before slavery was abolished in the south, the very first show occurred in 1843, in New York City. Within a year it became the most popular form of live entertainment in America.

Each show consisted of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in make-up of blackface for the purpose of playing the role of black people by imitating or caricatured slaves in the South and ex-slaves in the North. Minstrel shows lampooned black people as dimwitted, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, happy-go-lucky, and musical.

White performers such as Charles Mathews, George Washington Dixon, and Edwin Forrest would blacken their faces with burnt cork or grease paint, dress in outlandish costumes, and then perform songs and skits that mocked African Americans, they would also call themselves “Ethiopian Delineators“. There was claims the Forrest’s impression was so good he could fool blacks when mangled with them on the streets. The white actors who portrayed these characters spoke an exaggerated form of Black Vernacular English.


The blackface make-up and illustrations on programs and sheet music depicted them with huge eyeballs, very wide nose, and thick-lipped mouths that hung open of grinned foolishly; one character expressed his love for a woman with “lips so large a lover could kiss them all at once”. They had huge feet and preferred “possum” and “coon” to more civilized fare. Minstrel characters were often described in animalistic terms, with “wool” instead of hair, “bleating” like a sheep, and having “darky cubs” instead of children. Other claims was that blacks had to drink ink when they got sick “to restore their color” and they had to file they hair rather then cut it. They were inherently musical, dancing, and frolicking through the night with no need for sleep.

Some of the most famous song played in the minstrel show was: Dixie, Compton races, Oh Sussanah, and My old Kentucky home. Some of the famous characters that reappeared in the minstrel show was: “Jim Crow” was the stereotypical carefree slave, “Mr. Tambo” the joyous musician, and “Zip Coon” a free black attempting to “put on airs” or rise above his situation.


The minstrel show survived for several decades as an professional entertainment. As the Civil Rights Movement progressed and gained acceptance, minstrels show lost popularity. It provided the means through which American whites viewed black people. On one hand, it had a strong racist aspects; on the other, it afforded white Americans a singular and broad awareness of what whites considered significant aspects of black culture in America.

Industrial Slave



An Industrial Slave is a type of slave who typically worked in an industrial setting. These slaves often had work that was more dangerous than agricultural slaves.

In the antebellum southern United States, industrial slaves were often the property of a company instead of an individual. These companies spanned various industries including sawmills, cotton gins and mills, fishing, steamboats, sugar refineries, coal and gold mining, and railroad.

Industrial slaves were exposed to many dangerous jobs in factories. Most of the machinery and tools were very new and the simplest mistake could mean the loss of a hand, foot, or even death. Industrial slaves worked twelve hours per day, six days per week. The only breaks they received were for a short lunch during the day, and Sunday or the occasional holiday during the week. Not many of the slaves had to endure working every day the whole year around.

However, Industrial slaves gave a great advantage to those companies that owned them. The companies boosted their annual profits by 6 to 42 per cent. The use of industrial slaves sometimes allowed a bankrupt company to be resurrected: “The Woodville mill, which went bankrupt with free labor, annually paid 10 to 15 per cent dividends after switching to slave labor”.

Boston Vigilance Committee


Boston Vigilance Committee was an abolitionist organization formed in Boston, Massachusetts on June 4, 1841 at the Marlboro Chapel, Hall No. 3. with the mission of protecting fugitive slaves from being kidnapped and returned to their Southern owners in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The organization was led by Theodore Parker, an American Transcendentalist and reforming minister of the Unitarian church.

A vigilance committee, in the 19th century United States, was a group of private citizens who organized themselves for self-protection. The committees were established in areas where there was no local law enforcement, or where the local government was ineffectual, corrupt, or unpopular. The groups, despite generally held opinions, were not mobs of unorganized individuals bent on revenge of the moment, but usually well-organized, with charters defining their purposes and official membership lists.

Some were public, but many were secret. Secrecy prevented retaliation by lawless or corrupt organizations and also made it difficult for government officials to pursue criminal charges in areas where the government held jurisdiction. Vigilance committees are not unique to the United States and existed into the 20th century.

In response to the law, the Boston Vigilance Committee began advocating resistance to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law through a variety of means. Members contributed funds to send fugitive slaves on to Canada, and for giving shelter and hiding to slaves making their way to Boston. When slaves were captured, the Committee paid for legal fees, and provided money which allowed escaped slaves to purchase necessities.

Additionally the Committee also carried out more violent resistance. In 1851, members stormed Federal marshals and freed Shadrach Minkins, a slave who escaped from Virginia, and who had been captured in Boston.

Vigilance committees, by their nature, lacked an outside set of checks and balances, leaving them open for excesses and abuse.

In the West, the speed of the vigilance committees and lack of safeguards sometimes led to the innocent being hanged or to their just disappearing. A few committees were taken over by fraudulent individuals seeking profit or political office.

Vigilance committees were generally abandoned when the conditions favoring their creation ceased to exist. In the west, as governmental jurisdiction increased to the degree that courts could dispense justice, residents abandoned the committees.

Henry “Box” Brown


Henry Box Brown was born into slavery in 1816 in Louisa County, Virginia. Brown’s enslaver was a former mayor of Richmond, Virginia John Barret. In 1830, at the age 15, Brown was separated from his family and sent work in tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia.

Brown married Nancy, a washerwoman, who was also a slave, the couple had three children together. Brown work hard to keep his family together, but in 1848, his wife and children was abruptly sold away to North Carolina. Using overtime money, Brown decided to arrange for his freedom. Brown found an ally in a white sympathetic shoemaker Samuel Smith, who agree to help. Brown constructed a wooden crate box that was three feet long and two feet six inches deep with two air holes. Brown and Smith devised a plan to have him shipped to the free state of Philadelphia by Adams Express Company, known for its confidentiality and efficiency. Brown was able to save up $166, he paid $86 to Samuel Smith.


Smith went to Philadelphia to consult with members of Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society on how to accomplish the escape, meeting with minister James Miller McKim, William Still, Cyrus Burleigh. He corresponded with them to work out the details. They advised him to mail the box to the office of Quaker merchant Passmore Williamson, who was active with the Vigilance Committee.

On March 23, 1849, Brown burned his finger to the bone with oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid) to get out of work. In Richmond a 200 pound Brown loaded himself with a small portion of water, a few biscuits, and a gimlet to drive more air holes in the box (if needed), into the wooden box, with the words displayed “dry goods”. The package went left Richmond and from there the package moved via horse-drawn carriage to the rail depot of the Richmond-Fredericksburg-Potomac Railroad.  Brown’s freight car was off-loaded 56 miles north on the Potomac River’s Aquia Landing and then placed aboard a Potomac River steamboat and shipped 40 miles upriver into Washington D.C.  Here, the “package” transferred to the Washington & Baltimore Train Depot and passed by rail through Baltimore, arriving 149 miles later in the Port of Philadelphia on March 24, 1849.  A local Philadelphia carting firm delivered “the package” to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. Delivered in 27 hours, Brown was welcomed by Philadelphia abolitionists led by Underground Railroad organizer, William Still and other members of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. When Brown was released, one of the men remembered his first words as “How do you do, gentlemen?” He sang a Psalm from the Bible, which he had earlier chosen to celebrate his release into freedom.


Brown survived the journey and became a well-known speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society, he wrote his autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown” in 1851. He then created a panorama called “Mirror of Slavery,” a moving scroll of scenes depicting slave life and his unusual escape. The panorama was exhibited in free states of America before he fled to England to avoid the Fugitive Slave Act. In England, Brown’s panorama, helped foster anti-slavery sentiment. In 1862, he began performing more light-hearted shows, with ventriloquists and singers.


By 1875 Brown had returned to New England and married a second time.  He lectured under the name Professor H. “Box” Brown until his death.  Henry Box Brown died in Toronto on June 15, 1897. Tax records and other documents indicate that he continued to perform into the early 1890s, but no performance records have been found. The last known performance by Brown is a newspaper account of a performance with his daughter Annie and wife Jane in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, dated February 26, 1889.








Hush Harbor


In the slave quarters, African Americans organized their own “invisible institution.” Through signals, passwords, and messages not discernible to whites, they called believers to “hush harbors” where they freely mixed African rhythms, singing, and beliefs with evangelical Christianity. It was here that the spirituals, with their double meanings of religious salvation and freedom from slavery, developed and flourished; and here, too, that black preachers, those who believed that God had called them to speak his Word, polished their “chanted sermons,” or rhythmic, intoned style of extemporaneous preaching. Part church, part psychological refuge, and part organizing point for occasional acts of outright rebellion (Nat Turner, whose armed insurrection in Virginia in 1831 resulted in the deaths of scores of white men, women, and children, was a self-styled Baptist preacher), these meetings provided one of the few ways for enslaved African Americans to express and enact their hopes for a better future.

Religion grew to become a highly respected part of slave life. It offered the enslaved hope and reassurance. Slaves were forced to organize and conduct these meetings in secret because the idea of slaves assembling without supervision left the owners in fear. The meetings were held after dark, the once field and house chores were completed, and carried on late into the night.

Christianity was the prominent religion forced on the African Slaves after being transported to the Americas. After being exposed to Christian ideas, the slaves began to understand them more. Slaves discovered promising stories and passages in the Bible that offered hope. The story of Jesus Christ suffering on the cross drew attention because of the similar, harsh treatment they both received.


The hush harbors served as the location where slaves could combine their African religious traditions with Christianity. It was safe to freely blend the components of each religion in these meetings. The slaves could let go of all their hardships and express their emotions. Here is where Negro Spirituals originated. The songs created by slaves were known to contain a double meaning, revealing the ideas of religious salvation and freedom from slavery. The meetings would also include practices such as dance. African shouts and rhythms were also included.

Slaves would suffer severe punishments had they been caught in a hush harbor meeting. The most common punishment would be a whipping. African American churches taught that all people were equal in God’s eyes and viewed the doctrine of obedience to one’s master taught in white churches as hypocritical. Instead the African American church focused on the message of equality and hopes for a better future.




African American Slaves and Religion


African-American religion is a tale of creative and variety. Africans was transported and enslaved in the New World beginning in the 15th century, in which brought them a wide range of local religious beliefs and practices. Islam had a powerful presence in Africa for several centuries well before the start of the slave trade. An estimated twenty percent of enslaved people were practicing Muslims, and some retained elements of their practices and beliefs well into the nineteenth century.

Preserving African religions in North America proved to be very difficult. The harsh circumstances under which most slaves lived, high death rates, the separation of their families, and the concerned effort of white owners to eradicate non-Christians, rendered the preservation of religious traditions difficult and often unsuccessful. Isolated songs, rhythms, movements, and beliefs did survived well into the nineteenth century. But these increasingly were combined in creative ways with the various forms of Christianity to which the European Americans introduced and forced on the African slaves.


In Latin America, where Catholicism was most prevalent, slaves mixed African beliefs and practices with Catholic rituals and theology, resulting in the formation of a entirely new religions such as vaudou in Haiti (later referred to as “voodoo”). North American slaves came into contact with the growing number of Protestant evangelical preachers, many of whom actively sought the conversion of African Americans.

By 1810 the slave trade in United States also came to an end and the slave population began to increase naturally making way for the preservation and transmission of religious practices. This transition coincided with the period of intense religious revivalism known as the “awakening”. In the southern states there was an increasing numbers of slaves converted to evangelical religions such as Methodist and Baptist faiths. Many clergy taught on the idea that all Christians were created equal in the sight of GOD, a message that provided hope and sustenance to slaves. The clergy also encouraged worship in ways that many Africans found to be similar, or at least adaptable, to African worship patterns, with enthusiastic singing, clapping, dancing, and even spirit-possession. Many white slave owners insisted that their slaves attend white controlled only churches, since many whites did feared that if slaves were allowed to worship independently the would ultimately plot rebellion against them. It is clear that many blacks saw these white churches and ministers promoting obedience to one’s master as the highest religious ideal, African Americans saw this as a mockery of the true Christian message of equality and liberation as they knew it.


In the northern states, freed African Americans enjoyed a greater, if not yet equal, measure of freedom. Like their southern counterparts, they, too, were drawn to evangelical Protestant churches, and were encouraged by the message of racial equality that they found there. Yet while spiritual equality was preached frequently, it was not always practiced. By the 1790s, as more and more migrants fled southern states and settled in northern cities, some white evangelical leaders sought to control black members by seating them separately and by strengthening white control over the churches.

Black leaders such as Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, many of whom were educated, literate, and ready to organize, began to desire their own independent black churches. In cities with large numbers of freed blacks such as Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, leaders broke away from white Methodists and Baptists. By 1816, the first independent black denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, came into existence, and was quickly followed by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1821.

In these independent churches, African Americans combined evangelical zeal with work on behalf of struggling free blacks and antislavery advocacy. Because limited educational and vocational opportunities were open to blacks in northern states, churches also served as schools, training centers, and centers of community organization. Many of the early black newspapers published were facilitated or spearheaded by black clergy, and thus the churches helped to bring African Americans across distances together into a more self-conscious community. They also linked African Americans to wider networks of evangelical life in Great Britain, the Caribbean, and the small communities of migrants who were moving to the colonies of Sierra Leone and Liberia after the 1820s, thereby sowing the seeds for an international “Pan-African” movement. Indeed, some of the first “black nationalists,” leaders who advocated for the full rights of African Americans and who favored a worldwide political movement of African-descended peoples, were Protestant clergy.


In recent years have scholars begun to investigate the varieties of African-American religious experience in nineteenth-century America. They argued that Christianity had prevented blacks from doing more to further their own political causes by encouraging submission to authority and passivity in the face of violence.

Two debates have occupied much of the literature on African-American religions over the last several decades. The first surrounds arguments about the extent of African survivals in black Christian traditions: to what extent did over 400 years of forced exile and enslavement eradicate African customs altogether? And if Equally prominent has been the question of whether Christianity was, in retrospect, a helpful or harmful ideology for slaves and free blacks.

Henry Brown (African American Inventor)


Henry Brown was an African American who invented a type of strongbox.

Strongboxes had been around at lease since 1835, when English inventors Charles Chubb and Jeremiah Chubb received a patent for a burglar-resisting safe.

Henry Brown was an inventor who saw a need for a convenient and secure way to store money, valuables and important papers. At that time, people commonly kept those type of items in wooden or cardboard boxes in their homes or entrusted them to local banks. Both of these options presented dilemmas. While banks generally provided safety against theft, they did not prevent bank employees from reading through personal papers. At the same time, keeping the items at home could help to keep prying eyes away, but there was little to prevent burglars from quickly and easily grabbing valuables and making off with them.


For Henry Brown, this was unacceptable. He saw a gap to create a tiny safe, complete with lock and key, which could only be accessed by the individual who had the key. He came up with  a design of forged steel, which was almost impenetrable, and several different compartments inside of which one could store documents and so forth. This box, which we know as a strongbox, could be stored at me for personal safety, or in a bank for additional safety, without the risk of your personal space being violated.

He patented his receptacle for storing and preserving papers on November 2, 1886 and it developed into what is now known as a strongbox.

The American Colonization Society


The American Colonization Society (ACS; in full, The Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America), was established on December 21, 1816, by Robert Finley of New Jersey, as an attempt to satisfy two groups in America. Ironically, these groups were on opposite ends of the spectrum. One group consisted of philanthropists, clergy and abolitionist who wanted free African Americans and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa. The other group was slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America. The ACS had its origins in 1816, when Charles Fenton Mercer, a Federalist member of the Virginia General Assembly, discovered accounts of earlier legislative debates on black colonization in the wake of Gabriel Prosser’s rebellion. Mercer pushed the state to support the idea. One of his political contacts in Washington City, John Caldwell, in turn contacted the Reverend Robert Finley, his brother-in-law, who endorsed the plan.

On December 21, 1816, the society was officially established at the Davis Hotel in Washington D.C, a group of exclusively upper-class white males.. It’s co-founders were considered to be Henry Clay, a United States congressman from Kentucky, John Randolph a politician and major slaveholder of Roanoke, Virginia, Richard Bland Lee and Bushrod Washington. Attendees included James Monroe, Bushrod Washington, Andrew Jackson, Francis Scoot Key, and Daniel Webster, with Henry Clay presiding over the meeting. Mercer nor Finley were unable to attend the meeting in Washington.


Both these groups felt that free blacks would be unable to assimilate into the white society of United States. The colonization effort resulted from a mixture of motives. Free blacks and their descendants, encountered widespread discrimination in the United States of the early 19th century. Whites generally perceived them as a burden on society and a threat to white workers because they undercut wages. Some abolitionists believed that blacks could not achieve equality in the United States because of discrimination and would be better off in Africa where they could organize their own society. Many slaveholders worried that the presence of free blacks was a threat to the slave societies of the South, especially after some were involved directly in slave rebellions. The Society appeared to support contradictory goals: free blacks should be removed because they could not benefit America; on the other hand, free blacks would prosper and thrive under their own leadership in another land.

Some Society members were openly racist and frequently argued that free blacks would be unable to assimilate into the white society of America. John Randolph, said that free blacks were “promoters of mischief.”

At this time, about 2 million African Americans lived in the United States; 200,000 were free persons of color, with most in the North, where they were restricted by law in various states. Henry Clay, considered slavery to have a negative effect on the southern economy. But in this period Kentucky had become a state that was selling slaves to the Deep South, where demand was booming because of the rise of cotton. Clay thought that deportation of free blacks was preferable to trying to integrate them in America, believing that “unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off”.


During the next three years, the society raised money by selling memberships. The Society’s members pressured Congress and the President for support. In 1819, they received $100,000 from Congress, and on February 6, 1820, the first ship, the Elizabeth, sailed from New York for West Africa with three white ACS agents and 88 African-American emigrants aboard.

The ACS purchased the freedom of some American slaves and paid their passage to Liberia and emigration was also offered to already free black people. Colonizing proved expensive and the ACS spent many years trying to persuade the U.S. Congress to allocate funds to support colonists emigration to Liberia. Henry Clay led this campaign, but the campaign failed to produce any money from the U.S. Congress. Despite their failure to receive funding from the U.S government, in the 1850s, the ACS was successful in receiving financial backing from some state legislatures, such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, plus more. In 1850, the state of Virginia set aside $30,000 annually for five years to aid and support emigration. The society, in its Thirty-fourth annual report, acclaimed the news as “a great Moral demonstration of the propriety and necessity of state action!”

During the 1850s, the society also received several thousand dollars from the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Maryland.


The ship arrive first at Freetown, Sierra Leone then sailed south to what is now the Northern coast of Liberia and made an effort to establish a settlement. All three whites and 22 of the emigrants died within three weeks from yellow fever. The remainders returned to Sierra Leone and waited from another ship. The Nautilus sail twice in 1821 and established a settlement at Mesurado Bay on an island they named Perseverance. It was difficult for the early settlers, made of mostly free-born blacks, who were not born into slavery, but were denied the full rights of American citizenship. The native Africans resisted the expansion of the settlers resulting in many armed conflicts. Nevertheless, in the next decade 2,638 African-Americans migrated to the area. Also, the colony entered an agreement with the U.S. Government to accept freed slaves captured from slave ships.

During the next 20 years the colony continued to grow and establish economic stability. Since the establishment of the colony, the ACS employed white agents to govern the colony. In 1842, Joseph Jenkins Roberts became the first non-white governor of Liberia. In 1847, the legislature of Liberia declared itself an independent state, with Joseph J. Roberts elected as its first President.

The society in Liberia developed into three segments: The settlers with European-African lineage; freed slaves from slave ships and the West Indies; and indigenous native people. These groups would have a profound affect on the history of Liberia.