slaves themselves were the focus of the second part of our project, the
extraction of advertisements from newspapers published between 1830 and
1860. The daily Baltimore Sun, which had one of the
widest circulation in the region, proved to be the most fruitful source
of slave ads, averaging nearly 100 per year. Each ad was scanned
and linked to a comprehensive database. The database contains information
about the owner; the slave's name, age, and gender; location a slave escaped
from; likely routes the fugitive took; and number of other slaves accompanying
a runaway. Future users of the database will be able to construct queries
about the profile of the average runaway, the concentration of runaway
cases in various counties of Maryland, the frequency of escape, and the
popularity of certain destinations.
In addition to census and
newspaper record stripping, we built extensive profiles of people who assisted
runaway slaves in their flight. Unfortunately, one of the best ways to
confirm the existence of the Underground Railroad in Maryland, and the
structure of its operation, is by examining its unsuccessful attempts.
We compiled a list of people convicted of enticing and persuading or aiding
and abetting slaves to run away. We recorded all documents associated with
the case studies, such as the court files, prison records, and pardon papers.
Also searched were census records, slave schedules, marriage licenses,
land records, and newspapers. Most of the people convicted of helping slaves
were pardoned after issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Case studies
such as these enable one to understand exactly how slaves escaped from
their masters, and the punishments issued if caught.
All of this research will
be used to piece together the Underground Railroad in Maryland, whether
through tracking the movement of runaway slaves, plotting the positions
of slave holdings, or identifying the runaway slaves themselves.