Mar 29, 2018 - Sale 2471

Sale 2471 - Lot 141

Price Realized: $ 7,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(BUSINESS.) Cuffe, Paul. Bond signed by a renowned African-American sea captain for his best-known vessel, the brig Traveller. Partially-printed Document Signed "Paul Cuffe," also by co-owner Asa Bly and customs official Edward Pope. One page, 13 1/4 x 8 inches, completed in manuscript and docketed on verso; folds, minimal wear. New Bedford, MA, 11 December 1807

Additional Details

Paul Cuffe or Cuffee (1759-1817) was perhaps the most prosperous African American of the early 19th century. Offered here is a bond he signed for the registration of his most famous ship. We know of no other signed Cuffe documents on the auction market since Swann sold one in 1951.
The son of a freed slave and a Wampanoag Indian, Cuffe was raised in Dartmouth, MA and found work on a whaling ship by the age of sixteen. In 1779, he built his own small ship to trade among the islands of Massachusetts, and slowly expanded his business to include a fleet of merchant ships. The brig Traveller was built in 1806, and was said to be his favorite. Cuffe became involved with the African colonization movement and took the Traveller to the British colony of Sierra Leone in 1810. On his return trip, he stopped in Liverpool, as reported in the London Times of 2 August 1811: "The brig Traveller, lately arrived at Liverpool, from Sierra Leone, is perhaps the first vessel that ever reached Europe, entirely owned and navigated by Negroes. . . . Her mate and all her crew are negroes, or the immediate descendants of negroes." The Traveller was seized by American customs officials in 1812 because of suspected trade with the British. To clear his name, Cuffe travelled to Washington and met with President Madison, who ordered the ship released. Cuffe used the Traveller to bring 38 emigrants to Sierra Leone in 1815. In short, the brig Traveller was central to Cuffe's compelling story.