Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Last Runaway

Over a year ago, I wrote:

"The runaway was something of a cultural icon in early America. Rebellious young apprentices, bold African slaves, and aging indentured servants all had reason to break away from the written contracts and unwritten codes which bound them to a system of human ownership. The newspaper advertisements which proclaimed such fugitives and offered rewards for their return represent a unique window into visual appearance in the era before photography. Because most advertisements minutely describe the clothing worn when the individual "ran away from the subscriber," we can often reconstruct precisely what these people wore on a daily basis. This sort of close study can be expanded to explore the mysteries of social relationships, personal identity, economics, politics, and that most American of all values - independence."

After finishing my graduate degree and a thesis focused on common dress in early America, I feel the same mix of excitement, trepidation, and sadness that I imagine most historical runaways felt. While the internet is full of dead blogs, I'm not quite ready to close up shop here or tweak the blog into something else. Instead, I'll leave these posts here as a repository of information for interested readers. I hope that you've enjoyed following my research in this blog, or if you've just found it, I hope it offers some insights. More than any other aspect of this project, I have enjoyed the very human connection that comes from reading about these forgotten everyday people. I'll leave you with one final runaway ad, this one from the Columbian Centinel of Boston, published on March 7th, 1792.


  1. Good luck, & thank you for past posts.
    Regards, Le Loup.

  2. What was worth more, a penny or five shillings?