(PHOTOGRAPHY.) RUNAWAY SLAVE. "Elisa Greenwell, resident of Philadelphia, runaway from the residence of William Edelen of Leonardtown, MD in 1859." 6th plate ambrotype with tinting and gilt highlights, in the original case, lacking the front cover; a very light "aura" around the edge of the oval image. Philadelphia, 1860's
Estimate $10,000 - 15,000
The information on Elisa [Eliza] Greenwell provided in the title of this lot comes from a slip of paper found inside the case, written in a neat, 19th-century hand, in 19th-century iron gall ink. According to a professional genealogical researcher, Elisa (or Eliza) Greenwell was born into slavery in 1830 in Saint Mary's County, Maryland on the William and Elizabeth Greenwell plantation. The date is based on the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules for the State. It is probable that Elisa became a house servant for Elizabeth Greenwell. At some point she was sold to William Edelen of Leonardtown, Maryland (Saint Mary's County) along with John and James Greenwell (possibly husband and son?). William Edelen was a slaveholder with 45 slaves on his tobacco plantation in 1860. It is believed that Elisa Greenwell became a household servant once again to Ellen Edelen, wife of William. How Elisa came to be photographed in Philadelphia in 1859 is open to speculation. It would be a logical place for her to run, having a large free black population as well as being a thriving Underground Railroad hub. William Edelen was a physician as well as tobacco grower. He might have taken Elisa to Philadelphia, but that is doubtful. It seems more likely that Elisa simply ran away, and was somehow returned to Edelen, because the slave schedule for 1860 shows that she is a servant to Mrs. Edelen. The records show that she ran away (again) on March 20th, 1863; this from the 1867 Slave Statistics (see below). John Greenwell escaped and joined the U.S.C.T's (see Broadfoot) a few days later on March 24, 1863. How Elisa came to be photographed in 1859 we may never know. Reference: Slave Statistics St Mary's County, compiled in 1867 by Commissioner George B. Dent.