Tag Archives: 19th century
Please help me to find her – Reconnecting Families After Slavery

Information Wanted Ads: Reconnecting Families After Slavery

As late as July 31, 1902, there were still formerly enslaved Americans using national newspapers in hopes of somehow reconnecting with the families shattered by slave owners before the end of the Civil War nearly 40 years before. These are a tiny sample of the requests in The Christian Recorder.

I was thinking about writing more about this phenomenon in post-Civil War America, but I feel that the messages, and the people asking for help, made themselves very clear.


February 4, 1865 – Of John Pierson, son of Hannah Pierson. When last seen by his mother he was about 12 years of age, and resided in Alexandria, Va., Fairfax county, from which place his mother was sold to New Orleans, La., by one Alexander Saxton. Nine long and dreary years have passed away since his mother has seen him. Through the reverses of this war she has made her way to New Bedford, Mass., where she now resides. Her name is now Hannah Cole. Any information concerning him or his grandmother, Sophia Pierson, will be thankfully received by his anxious mother.

February 18, 1865 – INFORMATION WANTED – Mrs. Harriet Mayo, of Detroit, Michigan, wishes to make inquiry of Joseph Mayo, Richard Mayo, Aaron Mayo, and Lucy Mayo. The last she heard of them they were in Petersburg, Virginia. She now thinks they are some where within the lines of the Union army. Any one knowing of their whereabouts will please address MRS. MATILDA ROBINSON, No. 88 Mullet St., Detroit, Mich. (more…)


About Christmas Day in Boston (1867)

This letter from the National Anti-Slavery Standard’s Boston correspondent ran on January 4, 1868:

CHRISTMAS-DAY in this city seemed to be both a merry day and a happy one. The population generally appeared to be following the desires of their own hearts, and to take general comfort therein. Many, disregarding the admonition of St. Paul (Galatians 4:9-11), as they have a perfect right to do, no doubt, in these days of “Free Religion,” made a holy day of it, and assembled in their churches and meeting-houses, joining in a ceremonial more elaborate than even their customary weekly one.

Probably they had a good time, special arrangement having been made for the gratification of both eye and ear. Their sanctuaries, following the Jewish tradition, were adorned with “the fir-tree, the pine, and the box-tree together,” and skilful musicians performed for them the choicest music of the Roman Catholic Church, the best, no doubt, that has ever been performed or composed.

The Puritans, our Pilgrim Fathers, would certainly have made wry faces at all this, could it have been credibly foretold them. They stuck to St. Paul in regard to Christmas, however widely they departed from him in their observance of another day. One who has searched the old records of the infancy of New England tells us that it is set down with a grim satisfaction against the date of the 25th of December following the landing at Plymouth, “so no man rested all that day.” Mince-pie, church festivals and athletic sports were alike an abomination to them; and such “muscular Christianity” as was extant among them was the product of hard work, not at all of play.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.


Paris Gossip and Fashion Notes in Godey’s Lady’s Book (November 1890)

The latest Parisian craze is the stare! A crazier-looking picture it would be hard to find; but the stare is, nevertheless, the fashion. In order to “do it” you must assume a look of utter abstraction and appear to be gazing at something all unseen by your friends and well-wishers; but which, in its contemplation, causes you to open your eyes very wide, and to persevere in doing this strange and uncalled-for thing. What you see apparently appalls you. And yet, the prettiest women are staring persistently in this insane way. What will not fashion’s votaries do?

Fashions are growing more eccentric daily; the more extreme they are, the more popular they become. Lace is regaining much of its past favor, although always popular, it has not been so universally used for the last few years; but now all kinds are in great demand. Black lace flounces have been in oblivion for some time; but the happy possessors can bring them forth, as they are growing in favor for trimming silks and velvets, and Worth has the daring to festoon them on the light cloth gowns now worn in the evening, while some of the famous Paris milliners are trimming felt hats with black lace. There are jetted net flounces that must be scantily gathered to show their beauty, and others lightly wrought with gold, steel or silver, or with tinsels of many colors. Raised figures of gold or of steel are most effective on black laces, others are jeweled in Russian fashion, and some of the prettiest are studded with turquoises amid gold, or pink coral with silver. The three-inch trimming laces with turquoises or corals have also pretty insertions of similar designs.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.



All Hallows Eve Explained in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1873

All Hallows Eve (October 31), was anciently kept with cheerful sociability in many rural households, by the rich and the poor. It was an occasion that seemed to mark the close of the harvest season, and the beginning of winter, the time of home delights, when the comforts of a well-to-do life are enjoyed. There was, moreover, a superstitious notion that on this particular night of the year (as on the Walpurgis-Nacht in Germany; which is made such a strange, wild time in Goethe’s “Faust”) all the fiends, imps, goblins, witches, and other unblessed agents of supernatural power would come out and frisk about the world till daylight or cockcrow.

Hence it was supposed to be a most favorable occasion for divining people’s fortunes, by different methods of conjuration or chance experiment. In every shire of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, some customs of this kind have prevailed within the memory of persons still living.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.



The 1850 National Woman’s Rights Convention and People of Color

The first National Women’s Rights Convention began on October 23, 1850, in Worcester, Massachusetts in the USA.

The National Women’s Rights Convention became an annual series of meetings that increased the visibility of the early women’s rights movement in the United States.

Parker Pillsbury

Parker Pillsbury

The National Women’s Rights Convention combined both male and female leadership, and attracted a wide base of support including temperance advocates and abolitionists. Speeches were given on the subjects of equal wages, expanded education and career opportunities, women’s property rights, marriage reform, abolition, racial equality, and temperance.

Chief among the concerns discussed at the convention was the passage of laws that would give suffrage to women.

A letter in a Pittsburgh newspaper criticized the convention for statements made for the record to include people of color in the demands for equality.

This is Parker Pillsbury’s response to that criticism. It appeared in the December 5, 1850 issue of Frederick Douglass’s newspaper, The North Star. This paper can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspaper Collection.

Parker Pillsbury (1809-1898) was an American minister and advocate for abolition and women’s rights.

DEAR MRS. SWISSHELM: – In the last Visitor, you say of a resolution relating to people of color, offered by Mr. Wendell Phillips in the late Convention of Women, at Worcester, Mass.

“We are pretty nearly out of patience with the dogged perseverance with which so many of our Reformers persist in their attempt to do everything at once.”

And again:

“In a Women’s Rights Convention , the question of color had no right to a hearing.”

It seemed as though the usually kindly spirit and good judgment of the Visiter were a little wanting in these two utterances. I should not have noticed it at all in most of the public journals – indeed, I neither know nor care what but few of them do say; for I should no more think of having them in my house, political or religious, than I would of inoculating the family with the foulest leprosy that ever unjointed the bones of a son of Abraham. But your Visiter finds a ready entrance and cheerful greeting so that we are a little solicitous about its bearing towards the few other … we have invited.

“Dogged and perseverance ” are two ugly words standing together, and Mr. Phillips has ever been very watchful to prevent any other topic from creeping to whatever platform he occupied, devoted to any particular reform. And those two words look strange indeed to some of us, standing in connection with his name and the resolutions to which you have taken exception.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

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