Prices of slaves on the eastern shore of Maryland before the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue in Harlem, New York. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Watched the uplifting and depressing movie Harriet last night. Second time I’ve seen it. Fabulous tale about the efforts of Harriet Tubman in liberating herself from slavery, then liberating most of her family, eventually freeing about 70 people from slavery.

After watching the movie again, wanted to pull together a recap of the posts on this site which discuss slavery. Most of this discussion is based on Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, by Kate Clifford Larson, which is the first adult biography of Harriet Tubman published since 1943.

A thin sliver of highlights from the book, primarily about the pricing of slaves:

Continue reading “Prices of slaves on the eastern shore of Maryland before the Civil War.”

Pay rate for privates in each of America’s wars

Portrait of a squad of uniformed World War 2 American combat soldiers. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Pay for American soldiers during each major war is provided by We Are the Mighty.

Their article, This is how much troops were paid in every major American war, provides the pay for a private in the major wars fought by the U.S. The then-current pay is also adjusted to an equivalent amount of money in 2016. Don’t know how they made the conversion to 2016 dollars. I usually want to look at the conversion rates, but won’t dive deeper for this post.

This info does provide some way of comparing pay rates across time.

Here is the great info they provide:

Continue reading “Pay rate for privates in each of America’s wars”

Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 4

Black soldiers in Union army. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This series of posts focuses on the prices of slaves and some of the economics of the slave system as discussed in the book Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, by Kate Clifford Larson.

First post:  introduction, why discuss prices, manumission

Second post: term slave, status of children

Third post: sales prices, hire out

This post finishes the series.

Rewards for capture

In September 1849, Harriet and her two brothers, Ben and Henry, ran away. Eliza Brodess posted a notice dated “Oct 3rd, 1849” offering $300 for the return of the three. The brothers changed their mind and went back to their master, dragging Harriet with them.

Continue reading “Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 4”

Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 3

Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue in Harlem, New York. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This series of posts focuses on the prices of slaves and some of the economics of the slave system as discussed in the book Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, by Kate Clifford Larson.

First post:  introduction, why discuss prices, manumission

Second post: term slave, status of children

Prices

For context, a house and barn were built on the Brodess farm in 1820. Edward Brodess owned Tubman. Upon his death, his wife, Eliza took ownership of the slaves and bore the responsibility of running the small family farm.

The house was described in court documents (I won’t go into background on the messy issue) as

“a single story 32 by 20 ft two rooms below with two plank floors and brick chimney, and also a barn of good material.

Continue reading “Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 3”

Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 2

Slave cabins in Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This series of posts focuses on the prices of slaves and some of the economics of the slave system as discussed in the book Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, by Kate Clifford Larson.

First post:  introduction, why discuss prices, manumission

Term slaves

Another grim aspect of a slave economy is the difference between a “slave for life” and a “term slave.” As a matter of course a slave remained a slave until death unless granted manumission.

An interesting twist is the idea of granting manumission at some point in the future. For example a young adult, say in the twenties, could be granted manumission upon reaching age 35 or 40. Infants or children could be granted manumission upon reaching 20 or 40 or some other age.

Continue reading “Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 2”

Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 1

Rusty old shackles with padlock, key and open handcuff used for locking up prisoners or slaves between 1600 and 1800. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, by Kate Clifford Larson provides the first adult biography of Harriet Tubman published since 1943.

I read the book after watching the new movie Harriet. I heartily recommend both the book and the movie. If you want to add another hero to the list of people you admire, check out the life story of Harriet Tubman.

There are lots of reviews of the movie and book. This post will not be a review of either the book or movie. Only direct comment I’ll make on the book is that after self-liberating from slavery, Harriet Tubman made about 13 trips back to the eastern shore of Maryland to help about 70 other slaves escape. She liberated most of her family, missing only her remarried husband and a few nieces and nephews if I recall correctly. She also gave detailed instructions to around 50 other slaves so they could escape on their own (location 154).

Instead this post will focus on one aspect of slavery covered in the book, specifically the price of slaves on the eastern shore of Maryland in the years prior to the civil war.

 

Why discuss the price of slaves?

Continue reading “Prices of slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before the Civil War – Part 1”

Indicator of soldier’s pay late in the Civil War. Racial disparity in pay rates.

The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground” by The National Guard is courtesy of the U.S. Government. Painting illustrates the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment as the regiment of African-American soldiers attacked Fort Wagner. Although unsuccessful, the attack proved black soldiers could fight as well as whites.

Hymns of the Republic by S. C. Gwynne cites an editorial on May 1, 1864 in the Chicago Tribune titled “Read and Blush” which criticized the wide disparity in pay between black and white soldiers.

This editorial is useful for two reasons. First, it reports the pay rates then in effect. Second it reveals the racism built into society at the time.

The monthly pay rates in April 1864, with another year remaining in the war:

Continue reading “Indicator of soldier’s pay late in the Civil War. Racial disparity in pay rates.”

Indicator of coast-to-coast travel cost and wages for school teacher in San Diego back in 1865

One room schoolhouse. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Docent at the School House Museum in the Old Town San Diego State Historical Park explained the people of San Diego hired a professionally trained primary school teacher in 1865.

Mary Chase Walker had challenges finding a good position in Massachusetts, so she sailed to San Francisco. When the anticipated job there did not materialize, she took a teaching position in San Diego.

Her salary was a quite impressive $65 a month at a time when the average laborer was paid somewhere around $30 a month.

Continue reading “Indicator of coast-to-coast travel cost and wages for school teacher in San Diego back in 1865”

Inflation factors during the Civil War and an indication of relative wages in the 1860s.

Manassas National Battlefield Park. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

An insightful indicator of wages during the Civil War can be found in The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy, by William C. Davis. Book also has useful indicators of inflation through 1863.

The northern economy was quite strong during the Civil War, with demand for skilled and unskilled workers in industry creating more lucrative job opportunities in the civilian world than being in the army.

While the pay for a soldier was $13 a month, the author says a man could make four times that much money merely by working as “a sign maker or a clerk in a dry goods store” (location 26210). That stat is credited to American Annual Cyclopedia, 1863, p. 413. A 30 second search on the ol’ internet suggests the book can be had for between $60 and $100.

The ratio of 4x suggests a dry good store clerk could make somewhere around $50 a month.

Continue reading “Inflation factors during the Civil War and an indication of relative wages in the 1860s.”