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Black woman in colonial garb working on a farm.

Pennsylvania Merchants and Dealers of Enslaved Persons

article by George F. Nagle, Afrolumens Project editor.
see also the article Buying a Slave


Pennsylvania residents who wished to purchase an enslaved person had several options.  They could buy a slave in a privately arranged sale, from a neighbor or acquaintance who had a slave for sale.  They could also read their local newspapers, or regional newspapers, such as The Pennsylvania Gazette, for advertisements of slaves being offered for sale (see examples of slave advertisements from newspapers).  Some of these were private sales, while others were public sales, or auctions, generally held to settle the estate of a deceased slave holder.  Most of these options are discussed in detail on the webpage "Buying a Slave."

Another option was to visit a professional dealer in slaves.  Prior to passage of the Gradual Abolition Law by the Pennsylvania legislature in the year 1780, the sale of slaves by merchants was legal.  Several slave merchants were located in or near Philadelphia, as the ports and wharves of that city made it easy to import slaves on merchant ships.  When, in 1761, legislation was passed imposing a hefty £10 duty on imported slaves, the mercantile firms simply landed the slave ships at wharves in Delaware and New Jersey, and took customers to the slaves for inspection.  Many of the Pennsylvania merchants who sold slaves also carried a large inventory of other items, and none are known to have been solely involved in slave trading.

After 1780, it became illegal to purchase slaves for importation into Pennsylvania.  But slave traders flourished in nearby cities, notably Baltimore, Richmond and Washington.  Some Pennsylvania residents maintained residences in Maryland or Virginia, where they could legally hold slaves.


  • Name:  Allen and Joseph /William Allen (see Turner, Joseph)
  • Name:  Bartholomew, Thomas
    Location:  Philadelphia, Arch Street
    Time period:  1761
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Bartholomew in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 12 March 1761: "JUST imported from Charles Town, South Carolina, in the Brig Hannah, Captain Noarth, A Parcel of likely young NEGROES, and a large Quantity of CAROLINA SOAL LEATHER, in Hides or Half Hides; also some Rice and Indigo, to be sold by the Subscribers, living at the upper End of Arch street. THOMAS BARTHOLOMEW."
  • Name:  Brisbane, William
    Location:  Philadelphia, Samuel Austin's establishment, Arch Street
    Time period:  1740
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Brisbane in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 16 Octobber 1740: "Just Imported from South Carolina, A PARCEL of young Negro Slaves of both Sexes, and to be sold very reasonably for ready Money by William Brisbane, at Mr. Samuel Austin's at the Lower end of Mulberry Street, commonly call'd Arch-Street, Philadelphia."
    Advertisement to sell a parcel of South Carolina slaves in Philadelphia, 1740.
  • Name:  Broadgate, Thomas
    Location:  Philadelphia, Morris Alley between Front and Second Streets
    Time period:  1733
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Broadgate in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 28 June 1733: "Sundry likely young Negroes of about 10 or 12 Years of Age, to be Sold at Thomas Broadgates in Morris's Alley, between Front-street and Second-street, on reasonable Terms."
    1733 ad by Thomas Broadgate of Philadelphia to sell enslaved persons.
  • Name:  Carpenter, Thomas
    Location:  Philadelphia, Hughes' Wharf
    Time period:  1760
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Carpenter in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 14 August 1760: "Just imported from the Coast of Africa, in the Schooner PENELOPE, now lying at Mr. Hughes' Wharff, A PARCEL of likely Negroe Boys and Girls, and to be sold by THOMAS CARPENTER, on board said Schooner."
  • Name:  Child, James
    Location:  Philadelphia, Water Street
    Time period:  1765
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Child in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 5 September 1765: "TO BE SOLD,
    ABOUT Twenty likely NEW NEGROES, Boys and Girls, from 12 to 14 Years of Age. Enquire of JAMES CHILD.
    N.B. Good Bonds will be taken in Payment."
  • Name:  Connell, William
    Location:  Philadelphia, Doing business from the Widow Conolly's tavern on Water Street
    Time period:  1744
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Child in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 16 February 1744: "Just arrived from St. CHRISTOPHERS, A Parcel of likely Negro Men, to be dispos'd of by William Connell. Enquire at the Widow Conolly's, in Water Street." 1744 ad from William Connell to sell a parcel of slaves just imported from St. Christophers.
  • Name:  Crosthwaite, William
    Location:  Philadelphia, Front Street
    Time period:  1739
    Notes William Crosthwaite's primary occupation was a peruke maker, creating the small wigs and headpieces popular among the wealthier citizens at the time. This gave Crosthwaite access to the very class of persons most likely to purchase enslaved people. A relative, Thomas Crosthwaite, captained ships sailing between South Carolina and Philadelphia. Goods from these voyages, including slaves, were sold by William Crosthwaite at his peruke shop on Front Street. The following advertisement was placed by Crosthwaite in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 24 May 1739:
    "Lately imported from SOUTH CAROLINA, SEVERAL likely young Negroes; Likewise a choice Parcel of Sole-Leather. Any Person inclining to purchase, may apply to John Billiald, at the Widow Connoly's in King-street, or William Crosthwaite, Perukemaker, in Front-street, Philadelphia." May 1739 ad from William Crosthwaite of Philadelphia to sell enslaved persons from his peruke shop on Front Street.
    A few months later, on August 9, Crosthwaite placed this additional ad revealing more about his connections to the trade involving enslaved persons and other goods from South Carolina:
    "For SOUTH-CAROLINA directly, THE Sloop Charming Betty, Thomas Crosthwaite, Master, lying at Capt. Bourn's Wharff, having good Accommodations for Passengers, one third of her Cargo already engag'd, and intends to sail by the 10th of September. For Freight or Passage agree with said Master on board said Sloop or at William Crosthwait's, Peruke-maker, in Front-street, who has several very likely NEGRO BOYS, and very good RICE by the Barrel, to sell reasonably, for Ready Money, Flower, or Bread. Philad. Aug. 9. 1719."(Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 August 1739) August 1739 ad by William Crosthwaite of Philadelphia to announce a ship sailing and the sale of enslaved persons.
    After his death, the estate of William Crosthwaite was liquidated by his executors in 1748. The advertisement to settle the estate revealed that in addition to selling enslaved persons, Crosthwaite also had indentured white servants and owned at least two enslaved persons, one of which was skilled in the perukemaking business:
    "Philadelphia, March 1, 1748 ALL persons indebted to the estate of William Crosthwaite, late of this city, peruke-maker, deceased, are desired to pay their respective debts; . . .To be sold by publick vendue, on Monday, the 7th instant, at the late dwelling-house of said William Crosthwaite, All his household furniture, and utensils, &c. belonging to the business of a peruke maker; also at private sale a young Negroe man, who can shave and dress wigs well, and a Negroe woman, who can wash, iron, and is a very good cook; also a servant man's time, who has two years and three months to serve. . ." (Pennsylvania Gazette, 1 March 1748)

  • Name:  Donaldson, Hugh
    Location:  Philadelphia, Walnut Street
    Time period:  1764
    Notes   In 1763, Donaldson advertised for sale "a strong hearty Negroe Wench, fit for Town or Country Service, can wash very well, and is sold for
    no other Fault than her being with Child."  (2 June 1763).  However there is no indication she was being sold as inventory rather than as a private sale.  The following advertisement was placed by Donaldson in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 16 February 1764: "Just imported in the last Vessels from Britain and Ireland, and to be sold very cheap for Cash or short Credit, by HUGH DONALDSON, At his House, in Walnut street,
    A FRESH Assortment of Yard wide, 7 eights, and 3 qr. Irish Linens, great Variety of printed and penciled Linens, Cottons and Chints, Yard wide and set Eights black and coloured Silk Handkerchiefs, white and red Flannels, Buckling and Switch combs, treble Cases of Ditto, and Stoney Batter Jews Harps.
    He hath also for Sale three Negroes, viz. One very fine Boy, about 13 or 14; one about 16; and a Fellow about 30 years old; Muscovado Sugar in Barrels, Carolina and English Soal Leather; and Dunbebben Drafts of the Coast of North Carolina, and Charles Town bar."
  • Name:  Ellis, Robert
    Location:  Philadelphia, Water Street
    Time period:  1733-1740
    Notes  One of the earliest ads from Robert Ellis appeared in the American Weekly Mercury on August 16, 1733, advertising: "To be SOLD. Several likely Negroe Boys and Girls, by Robert Ellis, in Water-street, very Reasonable." Ellis advertised on 12 August 1736 that he had "VERY likely Negroe Boys and Girls" for sale.  On 7 July 1737, Ellis advertised "JUST IMPORTED In the Snow Martha, Cornelius Kollock, Master; A PARCEL of likely young Negroe Boys and Girls, to be sold by Robert Ellis in Water Street."  The following advertisement was placed by Ellis and partner John Ryan in the American Weekly Mercury on 8 June 1738: "Just Imported and to be Sold, By Robert Ellis and John Ryan, A PARCEL of fine, young Healthy, Negroe Slaves, Boys and Girls, and are to be Sold very reasonable.  They may be seen at said Ellis' House in Water street.
    N.B.  Three or four Months Credit will be given on good security, or an abatement of Twenty Shillings made in each Slave on present Payment.
    An advertisement for the same group of enslaved persons, with similar wording, was placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia): Advertisement for slaves from Ellis and Ryan, Philadelphia, 1738
    On 4 September 1740, Ellis advertised:
    A PARCEL of likely Negro Boys and Girls just arrived in the Sloop Charming Sally, David Hall Master, and to be sold by Robert Ellis, in Water street, for ready Money, Flour or Wheat, and the aforesaid Sloop will sail for Charlestown in South Carolina and Wynyaw in fourteen days at furthest. For Freight or Passage agree with the said Robert Ellis, or the said Master on board the said Sloop, now lying at Robert Ellis's Wharff.
  • Name:  Emerson and Graydon
    Location:  Philadelphia, Front Street near the Drawbridge
    Time period:  1737-1747
    Notes The mercantile firm of Caleb Emerson and William Graydon first advertised African slaves along with European servants on 6 October 1737:  "Just Imported, In the Snow Prince of Orange, William Rankin, Master, from Dublin, and now lying off opposite the Draw Bridge: A Choice Parcel of Servant Men and Women, among whom are sundry Tradesmen. Likewise sundry European Goods lately Imported from London and Bristol; also a Couple of Negro Wenches; all to be sold very reasonable by Emerson and Graydon."   Their trade continued to include both European and African people through 1741.  This ad is for several African slaves:  "TO BE SOLD, By EMERSON and GRAYDON, in Front Street, near the Draw Bridge, Several likely Negroes, Men, Boys and a Girl; a parcel of very neat fashion'd Looking Glasses, viz. Peer Glasses and Sconces of sundry sorts: A variety of Irish Linnens, neat Fusees, Muskets, Cutlashes and Gun Powder, &c."  By 1747 their storefront was occupied by the merchants William and David McIlvaine.

    In 1741, the firm advertised for an enslaved man that jumped ship while in port. Advertised as a "Spanish Indian," this may have been an enslaved sailor rather than an enslaved person to be placed up for sale. The ad is a good reminder that non-African dark-skinned people were also enslaved.
    RUN away from the Snow Lancashire Witch about 14 days ago, a Spanish indian man about 30 years of age, low stature, a very yellow Complexion, and speaks but few words of English;
    He is now skulking about Town, and is entertain'd by some persons unknown. Whoever secures him, and brings him to Emerson and Graydon, shall have 20 shillings Reward.
    N.B. All persons are forwarn'ed from entertaining him.
    Emerson & Graydon. (The Pennsylvania Gazette, 9 July 1741)
  • Name:  Gilbert, Thomas
    Location:  Philadelphia, Front Street
    Time period:  1752
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Donaldson in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 28 September 1752: "For BARBADOS directly, The Snow HANNAH, JOSEPH CORNISH, Commander WILL sail in 15 days. For freight or passage, apply to Thomas Gilbert, at Jonathan Evans, to said commander on board, at Hamilton's wharff.
    N.B. To be sold, by said Gilbert, A Parcel of likely Negroes, Barbados rum, muscovado sugar and cocoa: Also choice old Cane spirit."

    Gilbert advertised another lot of slaves in October of that same year:  "For BARBADOS directly, The SLOOP GOOD INTENT, JOHN BOOTH,
    master; Will sail in twenty days. For freight or passage apply to Thomas Gilbert, at Jonathan Evans, in Front street, or said master on board, lying at Fishbourn's wharff.

    Just imported, and to be sold by said Gilbert, a parcel of new Negroes, Barbados rum, best muscovado sugar, and choice cocoa; also choice old cane spirit." (Pennsylvania Gazette, 12 October 1752)
  • Name:  Harrison, John
    Location:  Philadelphia, Over the Drawbridge
    Time period:  1741-1749
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Harrison in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 26 May and 16 June 1743: "JUST IMPORTED, and to be SOLD, by JOHN HARRISON, Over the Draw-Bridge, A Parcel of likely NEGROES, good West-India RUM, and a great Choice of best Muscovado SUGARS. Also sundry Sorts of dry Goods. Very cheap, for ready Money."
    1743 Philadelphia ad from John Harrison to sell enslaved persons.
    In 1741, Harrison offered the following single slave for sale:  "JUST IMPORTED, And to be Sold by JOHN HARRISON, over the Draw Bridge; A Parcel of choice Rice, Sole Leather, Cotton, and Muscovado Sugars: Also a likely Negro Man, Island Born, fit for either Town or Country Work." (Pennsylvania Gazette, 3 September 1741) 
    In 1748 Harrison was dealing with individual slaves, possibly acting as an agent for a local client:  "To be sold by JOHN HARRISON, over the Drawbridge, Philadelphia, A Likely young Negroe Wench, that can wash, iron, and do any sort of house work; also West India rum, muscovado sugars, cocoa, olives in half gallon bottles, and best pistol powder." (25 August 1748)
    Harrison also dealt in Irish servants (see the ad, Pennsylvania Gazette, 10 December 1747)  Harrison died circa 1751.
  • Name:  Henderson, William
    Location:  Philadelphia, Church Street/ Market Street opposite the Indian King
    Time period:  1750-1756
    Notes    William Henderson's exact occupation is difficult to ascertain from his surviving advertisements.  He seems to have been a merchant, selling wines and spirits, in addition to sugars, but he also frequently listed slaves.  His first ad (20 March 1750) states:  "To be SOLD, TWO likely Negroe boys, about 12 years old. Enquire of William Henderson, in Church alley."  About one month later (19 April) he advertised "To be SOLD, A Likely Negroe boy, about 13 years of age. Enquire of William Henderson, in Church Alley."  An ad, dated 6 February 1753, shows that he has relocated to Market Street, "opposite the Indian King," and offered "TWO young negroe men, and a Negroe woman, fit for town or country business. Likewise an English servant woman, who has between three and four years to serve; she can sew quick, wash and iron well, and fit for any other sort of business."
    On 31 May 1753 he offered: "AN English servant woman, who has about 3 years to serve," possibly the same woman as above.
    On 16 August 1753:  "TWO likely Negroes, a boy about 14 years of age, and a girl the same age; also good muscovcado sugar."
    On 2 May 1754:  "a Negroe man, a taylor by trade, and a Negroe woman, and young child."
    On 30 September 1756 Henderson was still selling muscavado sugar, but also had for sale "a Negroe woman."
  • Name:  Inglis, John
    Location:  Philadelphia, Second Street /Below the Drawbridge/later (1741) Front Street
    Time period:  1734-1743
    Notes   See the brief biography of John Inglis on the University of Pennsylvania website.  His wife's brother was Archibald McCall (below). The earliest ad for slaves from John Inglis is dated 20 June 1734:
    To be sold in Lots or singly, a choice parcel of Negroes lately imported, consisting chiefly of young Men and Girls, bred to Plantation Business; also Jamaica Rum, Sugar of sundry Sorts, Molasses, Cotton, and Pimento, likewise a fashionable fresh parcel of Mercery Goods, consisting of Lutestrings, brocaded strip'd & waved Ducapes, Ducapees, Surines and Armillas, Choice of Haberdashery and Cutlery Ware with other Sorts of Merchandize. The Sale to begin on Friday Morning at John Inglis's House in Second Street, opposite to the Post House.
    1734 ad from John Inglis of Philadelphia to sell enslaved young men and women.
    Merchant John Inglis advertised various types of labor for sale, frequently including "sundry likely English servant men, husbandmen and tradesmen, very cheap for ready money or the usual credit." (18 June 1741)  The following advertisement was placed by merchant John Inglis in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 24 June 1742: "To be SOLD by JOHN INGLIS, A LIKELY NEGRO WOMAN and her Daughter, both able, healthy Negroes, fit for Town or Country Service, Besides, choice of English and India Goods, very reasonable, for ready Money, or usual Credit."

    Previous sales included (12 July 1739) "A Likely young Negro Woman, who can Wash, Iron, and cook well; also a young Negro Girl, about 14 Years of Age, both has had the small pox."

  • Name:  Jones, Edward
    Location:  Norris Alley
    Time period:  1740
    Notes  In 1740, Jones advertised the following parcel of slaves:  "Just Imported from Antigua, in the Brigg Martha, Gurnay Wall Commander, and to be Sold by Edward Jones in Norris' Alley. A very likely Parcel of young Negro Men and Women, Boys and Girls. Also Rum, Sugar, Ginger and Coffee." (American Weekly Mercury, 27 November 1740. Ad transcribed by students of Introduction to Literary Research, Fall 2002 and Spring 2003, at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and placed online at, accessed 21 February 2007)
  • Name:  Kearny and Gilbert
    Location:  Philadelphia, Water Street
    Time period:  1755-1758
    Notes  The first ad in which the firm of Kearny and Gilbert offered a slave for sale appeared on 28 August 1755.  It read, in part: "To be sold by said Kearny and Gilbert, Choice Madeira and Lisbon wines, Barbados rum, and muscovado sugar in hogsheads, tierces and barrels, very good cocoa, and a likely negroe boy."  The earliest known ad from this mercantile firm in which they offered a "parcel" of imported slaves is from 19 August, and republished 2 September 1756, in which they advertised: "JUST imported in the Snow George, from Barbados, and to be sold by KEARNY and GILBERT, at their Store in Water street, A Parcel of likely NEGROE BOYS, from the Gold Coast."  About a year later--8 September 1757--they advertised "To be SOLD by KEARNY and GILBERT, In Water street, near Walnut street, SEVERAL likely Negroe Men, just imported. Also Barbados Rum, Muscovado Sugar, Melasses and Cocoa."  Several months later the following advertisement was placed by the Kearny and Gilbert in the Pennsylvania Gazette, on 18 May 1758:
    For BARBADOS directly, The Snow YOUNG SAMUEL, JOHN SOUTHY Master, A prime Sailer, lying at Penrose's Wharff. For Freight or Passage, apply to Kearny and Gilbert, or said Master.

    N.B. To be sold by Kearny and Gilbert, a Parcel of choice Gold Coast and Windward Slaves, Men, Boys and Girls; also rum, Sugar, Cannon, Ship Muskets, Swivel Guns, Shot and Cordage.
    And this additional ad, a few weeks later (27 July 1758):
    To be SOLD by KEARNY and GILBERT, Double fortified Four Pound Guns with Carriages, Swivel Guns, Musquetoons, Cartouch Boxes, and Cannon, Swivel, and Musquet Ball. Several small Trunks of printed Calicoes, Chints and Humhums, by the Trunk, being neatly assorted; striped Silk Lutestrings and Tobines, white Silk Tabby for Staymakers, fine Dresden and Gauze Handkerchiefs, Brussels and Mechlin Head lace, Scarlet Worsted Breeches Patterns, and Camblets; an Assortment of Necklaces, best Whalebone, Gold leaf, and West Indian Sweetmeats in Stone Jars.

    N.B. To be sold by said Kearny and Gilbert, a likely Gold Coast Negroe Boy, about 16 Years of Age.
    Slaves from Barbados were advertised in 1758, in this ad:  "JUST imported in the Snow Melesent, John Cotton, Commander, from Barbados, and to be sold by KEARNY and GILBERT, three likely young NEGROE MEN, about 20 Years of Age, fit for any Kind of Business." (19 October 1758)  This ad, which does not disclose the origin of the slaves, was published 13 September 1759:  "TO be sold by KEARNY and GILBERT, in Water street, three likely Negroes, a Man, a Woman, and a Boy."  The firm of Kearny and Gilbert also sold individual slaves, probably as agents for a client wishing to sell the slave: "To be SOLD by KEARNY and GILBERT, A VERY likely Negroe Woman, about Twenty five Years of Age, brought up in a genteel Family, can make a Holland Shirt, does up Linen extremely well, and can turn her Hand to an Business in a Family." (The Pennsylvania Gazette, 12 June 1760)
  • Name:  McCall, Wallace and Company
    Location:  Philadelphia
    Time period:  1761
    Notes  Archibald McCall's sister, Catherine, married John Inglis (above). The following advertisement was placed by the company in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 1 October 1761:
    Just imported in the Sloop Company, Captain Hodgson, from the Coast of Africa, A PARCEL OF LIKELY NEGROE SLAVES; Which may be seen on board said Sloop, lying off Cooper's Ferry.
    For Terms, apply to SAMUEL and ARCHIBALD McCALL, and JAMES WALLACE and Company.
    Archibald McCall also functioned as an agent in the sale of slaves, as seen in this 2  February 1769 ad:  "To be SOLD, FIVE FORGE NEGROES, that have been Ten Years at the Business, and are Master Workmen; three of which are HAMMERMEN, and two FINERS. Enquire of ARCHIBALD McCALL, in Philadelphia, or JOHN FEGAN, at Glasgow Forge.  N.B. The reason of their being sold is, that the Forge is not to be carried on longer than next Spring."
  • Name:  Meade, Garrett and George
    Location:  Philadelphia, Walnut Street, Water Street (1766)
    Time period:  1762-1766
    Notes  The Meade's sold their slaves from Roberts' Ferry in New Jersey.  Customers were taken from their Walnut Street store to the ferry to inspect and possibly purchase slaves:  "JUST imported in the Ship Hamilton, Robert White, Commander, from Barbados, and to be sold at Roberts' Ferry, by JOHN ISACK REDWAR, or by GARRETT and GEORGE MEADE, at their Store in Walnut street, Four likely Negroe Boys, one Negroe Man, and two Negroe Women." (The Pennsylvania Gazette, 8 July 1762)  This ad, published on 8 September 1763, mentions slaves being held for inspection at Cooper's Ferry, outside of Pennsylvania:
    Just imported, and to be sold by GARRETT and GEORGE MEADE, At their Store in Walnut street, A Few Hogsheads of old Barbados Spirit, fit for immediate Use, Rum, Muscovado Sugar in Barrels, Cotton, and a few Hogsheads of the best Teneriffe Wine.

    N.B. They have also to sell, at Cooper's Ferry, over the River, Three likely Negroe Boys, and one Girl, which they will dispose of on the most reasonable Terms.
    This ad was published on 21 June 1764:
    For BARBADOS, The SLOOP NANCY, SOLOMON EDEY, Commander, WILL certainly sail in 10 Days. For Freight or Passage apply to said Master, or Garrett and George Meade.

    N.B. Just imported in the said Sloop (and to be seen at Roberts' Ferry in the Jersey) A Parcel of likely new Negroe Boys and Girls, which will be disposed of on very reasonable Terms. Also Barbados Rum and Muscovado Sugar.
    The following advertisement was placed by the Meades in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 19 July 1764:

    Just imported in the Sloop Jenny, George Barclay Commander, and to be sold by GARRETT and GEORGE MEADE, At Roberts Ferry, opposite this City, A Parcel of stout, likely, young Gold Coast SLAVES.  The Negroes from this Country are esteemed better than from any other Part of the Coast, and those will be sold on very reasonable Terms, for Cash, or short Credit.

    N.B. Purchasers are desired to call at said Garrett and George Meade's Store in Walnut street, from whence they will
    be attended to the Place of Sale.

    Another, later ad --dated 11 October 1764-- gives a lengthy list of goods for sale, with slaves listed at the end:
    Just imported in the last vessels from London and Bristol, and to be sold on very reasonable terms, by GARRETT and GEORGE MEADE, At their store in Walnut street, A Large and neat assortment of European and East India goods, suitable for the season, amongst which are a great quantity of Irish linens, brown hollands, dowlas and sheetings, Scots and German ozenbrigs, 7 8ths, yd. wd. and yd. and 3 8ths cotton and linen checks, striped cotton hollands, Russia drab, 6 qr. huckaback, clouting diaper, 8 qr. diaper and damask tablecloths, figured demity, white and dyed India jeans, cambricks and lawns, calicoes, cottons and chintzes, an assortment of coloured and Scots thread, sewing silk, striped flannels, a variety of men and womens thread, cotton and worsted hose, shaloons, rattinets, calimancoes, camblets, Norwich crapes, florettas, felt hats, playing cards, &c. &c. &c.

    N.B. They have also for sale a few hogsheads of old Barbados spirit, muscovado sugar in barrels, castile soap, and choice Waterford pork by the barrel; likewise a few likely young new Negroes, at Roberts' ferry, opposite this city, in the Jerseys, which they will also dispose of on very reasonable terms.
    An advertisement from 26 June 1766 shows the sale of and individual slave, possibly for a client: "To be SOLD, By GARRETT and GEORGE MEADE, At their Store, in Water street, near Messrs. Willing and Morris, FINE old Lisbon Wine, in Quarter Casks, Barbados Rum and Sugar; and a likely young Negroe Man, used to Housework, or waiting on a Gentleman."  By September of that year they were also dealing in the time of English and Irish indentured servants (see the Pennsylvania Gazette, 18 September 1766).
  • Name:  Read, Charles
    Location:  Philadelphia, at the London Coffee House
    Time period:  Late 1730's
    Notes This appears to be the third Charles Read, born in 1715 in the Read family merchant house at Front and Market Streets. The property became famous as the London Coffee House. The son married in Antigua shortly after his father's death in 1736, and he returned to Philadelphia to claim the estate, along with a large cargo of rum, molasses and other goods. The following advertisement was placed by Read in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 29 June 1738: "RUM, SUGAR, and MELLASSES, with some likely Men and Women NEGRO-SLAVES, that have had the Small-Pox, To be Sold by Charles Read, in Philadelphia."  .
    Advertisement placed by Charles Read to sell a parcel of slaves, Philadelphia, 1738.

    Upon settling his father's estate, Charles left the Philadelphia mercantile business to pursue political and business interestes in New Jersey.
  • Name:  Redwar, John Isaac
    Location:  Philadelphia, Hamilton's Wharf
    Time period:  1762-1763
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Redwar in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 26 May 1763: "TO be SOLD by JOHN ISAAC REDWAR, at his Store, in Hamilton's Wharff (next Door to Mr. GIBSON) Choice good Barbados Rum and Sugar. Said REDWAR has also for Sale, in the Jerseys, at the Upper Ferry House, Four very good NEGROES, viz. Two young Men, and two Girls; where he will be glad to treat with any Gentlemen for them."  He also sold slaves in conjunction with Garrett and George Meade.
  • Name:  Reed and Pettit
    Location:  Philadelphia, Front Street
    Time period:  1759-1765
    Notes The mercantile firm of Andrew Reed and Charles Pettit began selling imported goods from a storefront near the drawbridge on Stampers Wharf in 1859. Commercial success allowed them to move to a more prominent Front Street store. They were chiefly importers of English finished goods and Caribbean alchohol and sugar, but occasionally handled local real estate and other transactions. In 1864 they began to include enslaved boys and men in their advertisements, either acting as agents for persons selling these persons, or having gained possession of these enslaved persons by trade or purchase. The three advertisements below illustrate the variety of goods they regularly sold, along with the described boys and men:
    January 12.
    BOSTON and PHILADELPHIA RUM, BOHEA TEA, by the Chest; and CAROLINA LEATHER, to be sold by
    REED and PETTIT,
    ALSO, a strong, active, country born Negro boy about eleven years of age; had had the small-pox, and is on sale for want of employ only. Enquire of Andrew Reed, at Trenton.
    (The Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, 01 March 1764)
    1764 Philadelphia advertisement by the mercantile firm of Reed and Pettit, including ensalved persons for sale.
    March 15.
    WEST-INDIA and PHILADELPHIA RUM, Excellent LONDON PORTER, BRISTOL BEER, Madeira WINE, bladder SNUFF, German SCYTHS, and a few MUSKETS, To be sold by REED and PETTIT, at their store in Front-street.
    Also two Negro boys, to be sold for want of employ only, one of which is about 11 years old, very strong and active. The other about thirteen, is very handy, and exceeding good waiter, and has lived soem time with a barber. They have both had the small pox.
    (The Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, 19 April 1764)
    December 20.
    To be sold at first cost, unopened. (Imported in the Ann, Captain Fortin)
    Five packages, containing a large assortment (for the amount) of Birmingham goods, amongst which are. . .
    GILT, silver'd and lacker'd buttons, and a great variety of buckles of the newest and best patterns; a small assortment of japan'd tea boards, waiters, and bread baskets; wrought iron tea-kettles, sauce pans, and dripping pans; a few low priced silver watches; horsewhips, fowling pieces and fuzees: A genearl assortment of knives, forks, and penknives, &c. To enumerate all the articles would be tedious, there being many of a small quantity each, and all well adapted to this market. The whole amounts to about £300 sterling, and laid in on the best terms. Any person inclining to take them may see the invoice by applying to
    REED and PETTIT.
    They have for sale (for want of employ) two negro men, both excellent waiters, and both know how to take care of horses. One is a compleat barber, and the other can dress hair.
    (The Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, 19 April 1764)
  • Name:  Richardson, Francis Jr.
    Location:  Philadelphia, Letitia Court, Market Street / also Front and Pine Streets
    Time period:  1738 (Richardson had a long mercantile history, but appears to have dabbled in slave dealing only in 1738.  His actual occupation was clockmaker, and he was apprenticed as a silversmith to his father, but his younger brother Joseph inherited the family silversmith business and Francis Jr. diversified into dry goods.)
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Richardson in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 27 July 1738:
    For SOUTH CAROLINA, directly, The Brigt. Anna, Henry Tisdale, Master; WILL Punctually Sail by the 10th of September. For Freight or Passage agree with the said Master on Board the said Brigt. at Samuel Powel's Wharffe, or with Francis Richardson, in Front Street. N.B. A Parcel of likely Negroes, to be SOLD by Francis Richardson, Imported in the said Brigt.
    Richardson placed a second ad several weeks later. The ship was now docked at Fishbourn's wharf, and was preparing to sail (Pennsylvania Gazette, August 17, 1738): Francis Richardson 1738 ad for enslaved persons just brought into Philadelphia on the Brigantine Anna.
  • Name:  Riche, Franks and Rundle
    Location:  Philadelphia
    Time period:  1761
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by these persons in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 6 August 1761: "To be sold, on board the Schooner Hannah, lying in the River Delaware, very near Mr. Daniel Cooper's Ferry, West New Jersey, opposite the City of Philadelphia,
    A CARGOE of Likely NEGROES, Just imported in said Schooner, directly from the Coast of Guiney. For Terms of Sale, apply to
    1761 Advertisement for a cargo of enslaved Africans, sold opposite Philadelphia.
    Thomas Riche also sold slaves independently, as shown in this 20 September 1764 advertisement:
    Just imported in the Brigantine Africa, Francis Moore, master, from the coast of Guinea, and to be sold by Thomas Riche, In New Jersey, opposite Philadelphia, A few likely Negro men, women, boys and girls, very reasonable for cash or short credit.
    N.B. The said Riche will attend the Sale from 10 to 1 o'clock, and from 2 till 5 in the afternoon.
    It is worth noting that, in the 1780 registration of slaves, Thomas Riche registered 19 slaves at Falls Township, Bucks County.
  • Name:  Simmons, James
    Location:  Philadelphia, Tun Alley
    Time period:  1759
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Simmons in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 24 May 1759: "Just imported from Africa, and to be sold by JAMES SIMMONS, At his Store in Tun Alley, a Choice Parcel of young SLAVES."
    Simmons placed another ad a few weeks later, giving more detail: "LATELY imported from Africa, and to be sold by James Simmons, at his Store in Tun-Alley, in Water-Street. Thirty choice young Negroe Boys and Girls. The Whole having had the Small Pox. (Pennsylvania Gazette, 21 June 1759)

  • Name:  Sims, Joseph
    Location:  Philadelphia, George McCall's old house
    Time period:  1741-1742
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Simmons in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 25 March 1742: "To be Sold by JOSEPH SIMS, at the House where Mr. George McCall, deceas'd, formerly lived. A likely Parcel of Negro Boys and Girls. Also sundry sorts of European Goods, viz. Ozenbrigs, Kersey, Emboss, and white Flannel, Shalloons, Tammies, Callimanco, striped and plain, Men and Women's worsted Stockings, Silk ditto, Fine Cotton ditto, Suits of fine Cloth with Trimmings, Boyl'd Camlets, Irish Linnen of sundry sorts, Yard wide seven eights and three quarters Garlix, Tandems, Cambricks, Broad and narrow Lawns, Checks of sundry sorts, Three quarters, six quarters and eight quarters Diaper, Table Cloths, Damask Napkening, Handkerchiefs, Black English Paduasoy, Flower'd Damask of divers colours, Taffeties, Persians, Grazets, Fine Chints, Tuft Fustians,"  The advertisement continues with a long list of additional wares. A similar ad appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 September 1741.
  • Name:  Sober, Thomas
    Location:  Philadelphia
    Time period:  1720s
    Notes Joseph Sober's advertisements for enslaved Blacks appear in the first newspapers in Philadelphia. 1726 advertisement in a Philadelphia newspaper to sell a parcel of young enslaved men.
    To be Sold. By Mr. Thomas Sober, Four likely young Negroe Men very Reasonable. (The American Weekly Mercury, 28 July 1726)

    TO be Sold by Thomas Sober, four very likely young Negroe Men, and a Boy about Thirteen Years lately Arrived from Barbados. Also a Negroe Wench about Seventeen Years old this Country Born. (The American Weekly Mercury, 7 March 1727)
  • Name:  Stocker and Fuller (Anthony Stocker and Benjamin Fuller)
    Location:  Philadelphia, Water Street
    Time period:  1761
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by the firm of Stocker and Fuller in the Pennsylvania Gazette: "Philadelphia, May 21, 1761.
    To be SOLD by STOCKER and FULLER, And to be seen at Mr. Daniel Cooper's Ferry, West New Jersey, opposite the City of Philadelphia,
    A PARCEL of likely NEGROES."  The firm dissolved sometime later, but Benjamin Fuller continued to sell servants, as shown by an excerpt from this later advertisement placed by him:  "Also to be sold a Servant Girl's Time, that has upwards of eight Years to serve, and is about 12 years old." (28 July 1763)
  • Name:  Turner, Joseph /(William) Allen and (Joseph) Turner
    Location:  Philadelphia, Turner's Wharf
    Time period:  1732-1752
    Notes   Merchant Joseph Turner joined with several persons over the years. His first ad for slaves was published on 28 August 1732:  "JUST arrived from St. Christopher's, a Parcel of Fine Negro Boys and Girls, to be sold by Allen and Turner."  On 13 May 1736 he advertised, along with Alexander Woodrop and William Allen, "JUST arrived from Barbadoes, several likely Negroes; among which are two likely Women bred to House work."  That same year (12 August), in conjunction with partner William Allen, he advertised:  "A Parcel of likely Negro Boys and Girls to be sold by Messrs. Allen and Turner." 

    In 1750, William Bird advertised for the return of two "Negroe Men" who had run away from the Union Iron Works in West Jersey.  He asked that if captured, they be returned to "Messieu's Allen and Turner, in Philadelphia." (30 August 1750)  An ad from the firm of Allen and Turner publicized "FIVE Negroe Men and boys, and one Negroe woman; to be viewed on board the Ship Mary, at JOSEPH TURNER'S Wharff."  (23 November 1752) 
  • Name: Willing, Morris and Company/ Willing and Morris
    Location:  Philadelphia, Front Street near Walnut Street.  After 1761, both companies advertised a store and wharf located "below the drawbridge."
    Thomas Willing and Robert Morris
    Time period:  1758-1763 as Willing, Morris and Company; 1763-1765 as Willing and Morris
    Notes  The first advertisement for slaves advertised by Willing, Morris and Company is dated 11 May 1758:
    Just imported in the ship Carrington, Samuel Appowen master, from Barbados, and to be sold by WILLING and MORRIS, At their store in Front street, near Walnut street, A Negroe Man, a goldsmith by trade, blows the French horn or trumpet, and is very fit either to follow his trade, or for an armourer of a privateer. A likely young Negroe woman. Also Barbados rum, muscovado sugar, &c. They have likewise a parcel of cambricks and lawns; an assortment of Manchester goods, silks, anvils, beck irons, sailcloth, anchors, &c. &c. all which will be sold at the lowest prices.
    On 4 September 1760, the company advertised: "Just imported, and to be sold by WILLING, MORRIS, and COMPANY, A PARCEL of likely young NEGROES; also Rum, Sugar, Cordage, Cables, Anchors, Carriage and Swivel Guns, with Shot to suit them."  A few days later, 11 September 1760, the company advertised "new Negroes," implying that these persons are imported from outside of the mainland colonies:  "Likely New NEGROES, At Fishbourn Wharff, to be sold by, WILLING, MORRIS, and COMPANY."   Another ad, dated 12 February 1761, gives details on two slaves, probably sold by Willing and Morris as agents for a client:  "To be SOLD by WILLING, MORRIS and COMP. A Likely young NEGROE MAN, that has been used to work at the House Carpenter Trade; also a likely NEGROE BOY, about 16 Years old, used to wait on a Family."  Another ad, a month later (12 March 1761) also mentions a few slaves:  "Just imported in the Ship Pretty Nancy, John Reddick, Commander, from Lisbon and Madeira, and to be sold by WILLING, MORRIS, and COMPANY, A CARGOE of choice Lisbon Salt, and a few Pipes of the best Madeira Wine. --- They have also for Sale, Two Mulattoes, and a Negroe Man."  A later ad, dated 7 May 1761, advertises imported slaves.  Note that, even though they had their own wharf in Philadelphia, the company landed the slaves in New Jersey to avoid payment of the £10 tax imposed upon imported slaves:

    Just imported from Barbados, in the Ship William and Mary, George Nicholson, Master, and now lodged at Mr. Daniel Cooper's Ferry, on the Jersey Shore,
    A Negroe Man, and two New Negroe Boys, who are to be sold by WILLING, MORRIS, and COMPANY. The Purchaser to pay the Duty lately imposed by Act of Assembly, if brought into this Province.

    Said WILLING, MORRIS, and COMPANY, have also for Sale Madeira, and an Assortment of other Wines, Rum and Sugar, &c.
    The following advertisement was placed by them in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 6 May 1762:

    Just imported from the Coast of Africa, in the Brig Nancy, and to be sold at Wilmington, in New Castle County (where Attendance is given) by Willing, Morris, and Company, Of PHILADELPHIA,
    ONE Hundred and Seventy fine Gold Coast NEGROES.

    N.B. In the West India Islands, where Slaves are best known, those of the Gold Coast are in much greater Esteem, and higher valued, than any others, on Account of their natural good Dispositions, and being better capable of hard Labour.

    An interesting aspect of the advertisement by Willing, Morris and Company, is that they brought the slave ship into the port at Wilmington, Delaware, thus avoiding the heavy £10 duty newly imposed upon imported slaves. This had become a common practice among Pennsylvania slave merchants, who would often provide transport from Philadelphia to Wilmington for anyone wanting to inspect the slaves at the ship. Paying the duty, which was strictly enforced by the provincial collector, then became the responsibility of the buyer if the slave was taken across the border into Pennsylvania.f

    The slaves being sold above were not all healthy, as shown by this later advertisement--3 June 1762-- concerning the same lot:

    TWENTY NEW NEGROES, CONSISTING of Men, Women, Boys and Girls, being Part of the Brig Nancy's Cargo of Gold Coast Slaves, are now to be sold at Mr. Daniel Cooper's Ferry, opposite this City, by WILLING, MORRIS, and COMPANY.

    ALSO Fourteen Slaves of the said Cargo, left at Wilmington, under the Care of Doctor John McKinley, who will sell them off, as they recover their Healths.

    The involvement of Willing and Morris in the slave trade was not limited or isolated, as some have suggested.  On 1 September 1763 the company reorganized, running the following legal notice dissolving the old partnership and forming a new one:  "The Co-partnership of  WILING, MORRIS and COMPANY, being now dissolved, All persons indebted to the said Company are desired to make immediate Payment, more particularly those who are indebted on Bond for Negroes, sold in the Lower Counties."   The old company apparently held a substantial debt for buyers of slaves in bonds, or loans--enough of a debt that they emphasized this particular indebtedness in their advertisement.  As Willing and Morris, several years later, the company still sold people as part of their inventory, as shown in this 27 June 1765 ad:  "FIVE Servant Men, and a large Quantity of empty Bottles, to be sold by WILLING and MORRIS."   The previously advertised "servant men" may have been African slaves, although because race was not specified they were more likely to have been Irish servants with from five to seven years to serve, as other advertisements from the company mention Irish servants being imported in merchant ships (see 18 April and 2 May 1765, The Pennsylvania Gazette).  The following advertisement from the Willing and Morris Company, a month later, dated 25 July 1765, shows a continued trade in African slaves.  Note also the listing of other items for sale:
    JUST imported in the Ship Granby, Jos. Blewer Master, Seventy Gold Coast SLAVES, of various Ages, and both Sexes, to be sold on board said Ship, lying at Mr. Plumsted's Wharff, by WILLING and MORRIS, and a part of them are intended to be sent, in a few Days, to Duck Creek, there to be sold by Mr. THOMAS MURDOCK, for Cash or Country Produce. The said Willing and Morris have for Sale, at their Wharff and Stores, below the Drawbridge, Barbados Rum, Sugar, Coffee, Madeira, Teneriffe, Lisbon, Malaga, Port and Fyal Wines, by the Pipe, Hogshead or Quarter Cask; Bristol Beer, Brandy, Geneva, Shrub, Lemon Juice preserved, Cordage, Sail Cloth, empty Bottles, Glass 6 by 8, 7 by 9, and 8 by 10, Sides of Glass, Boxes of Glass Ware, plain and painted Chests of China Cups and Saucers, a few Casks of Liverpool China Ware, 6, 8, 10, 30d. and sheathing Nails, a Quantity of Mahogany Logs, and many other Articles. Three indented Servants to be disposed of.
    The company also bought and sold the time of Scottish and German immigrants in the 1760s and 1770s, selling them for a term of years in payment for their passage from England and Europe. A 19 November 1771 ad offers for sale "350 Freights of Palatines, all in good Health; their Passages are to be paid to WILLING and MORRIS."


The following persons may or may not have been regular Pennsylvania merchants.  Some may have been itinerant merchants or traveling entrepreneurs who did limited business in Philadelphia, moving from port to port hawking their cargo of goods, including slaves.  Many do not list a regular place of business, advertising instead to meet clients at a particular wharf, or at another established place of business.  Additional information from our readers on any of these persons is welcome.

  • Name: Esdaile, James
    Location:  Philadelphia, Carpenter's Wharf
    Time period:  1737-1741
    Notes Esdaile had property in Jamaica and connections to St. Kitts. The following advertisements were placed by merchant and trader Esdaile:
    A Fine young Negro Fellow, speaks English, us'd to Labour, and is fit for either Town or Country, to be sold by James Esdaile at Mr. Dering's in Front-Street, or at his Store on Carpenter's Wharff; where is also to be sold, good St. Kitts Mellasses, Ginger & Indigo. (The Pennsylvania Gazette, 7 July 1737);

    1739 advertisement by James Esdaile to sell enslaved men from his store at Carpenter's Wharf in Philadelphia
    TO BE SOLD, TWO likely young Negro Men, that speak good English, and have had the Small-Pox, fit for either Town or Country. Also St. Kitts MELLASSES, and double distill'd RUM. To be SOLD by James Esdaile at his Store on Carpenter's Wharffe. (The Pennsylvania Gazette, 9 August 1739);

    TO BE SOLD, BY James Esdaile at Carpenter's Wharff, two Negro Men and a Negro Boy, St. Kitts Melasses, Rum, Sugar and Cotton. (The Pennsylvania Gazette, 7 May 1741)

  • Name:  Galloway, Peter and Asher Mott
    Location:  Philadelphia, Market Street
    Time period:  1750
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Galloway and Mott in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 24 May 1750: "TO be sold by Peter Galloway, living opposite to the Prison, in Market street, and Asher Mott, near the New market, on Society hill, Negroes, coffee, green tea, and muscovado sugar, by the hogshead, barrel, or less quantity, for ready money, or short credit"
  • Name:  Leary, Dennis
    Location:  Philadelphia
    Time period:  1741
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Leary in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 9 July 1741: "Just Imported from Barbados, In the Brigt. Vernon, Arthur Burrows, Commander, and to be Sold by Dennis Leary, at the Widow Richardson's, in Front-Street, near the Corner of Market-Street: A Likely parcel of young Negroes, Men, Women, Boys and girls, very reasonable: Also choice Barbados Rum and Muscovado Sugar, &c." (A similar ad ran in the American Weekly Mercury, 23 July 1741)
  • Name:  Plumstead, William and Samuel Mifflin
    Location:  Philadelphia
    Time period:  1755
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Plumstead and Mifflin in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 9 October 1755: "JUST imported in the Ship Five Friends, Alexander M'Millan, Master, A few likely NEGROES; who are to be disposed of by WILLIAM PLUMSTEAD and SAMUEL MIFFLIN."'
  • Name:  Strutton, John
    Location:  Philadelphia
    Time period:  1751/1759
    Notes The following advertisement was placed by Strutton in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 3 October 1751: "TO BE SOLD, A Parcel of likely Negroes, very reasonable.  Enquire of John Strutton, at Spencer Trotter's, in Front-street.
    N.B.  Said Negroes may be seen at a Free Negroe Woman's, in Chestnut-street, opposite to Mr. Anthony Benezet's." 1751 Philadelphia advertisement by slave merchant John Strutton. On 17 May 1759, Strutton advertised:
    To be SOLD, A Parcel of likely strong Negroe Men and Women, fit for Town or Country Business; one of which is fit to wait on a Gentleman; and another good Barber, shaves very well, can make Wigs, dresses Hair well and a very good Fidler. Enquire of John Strutton, at Mr. James Biddle, in Fourth street, or at his Store in Water street, near Mr. Meredith's Store.

    N.B. The said Negroes are to be seen at Emanuel Woodbe's (Negroe) in Water street, a little below Chestnut street.


"Price Current"

As businessmen living in a busy international port and shipping hub, colonial Philadelphia merchants made or lost fortunes due to the sometimes wildly fluctuating prices for popular goods. Knowing the "current prices" for goods at various ports was vital when deciding to buy or ship. The Pennsylvania Packet and the Pennsylvania Gazette published regular reports of the going prices for various goods at the major eastern seaboard ports. The going prices for slaves sometimes made the lists, as with this example from the Pennsylvania Packet, 9 December 1785, one of the last items listed ("New Negroes"). The prices below reflect prices current in Charleston, South Carolina in December 1785:

Published list of current prices for goods and commodities at Charleston, South Carolina, in December 1785, including prices for slaves.


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