Mar 24, 2022 - Sale 2598

Sale 2598 - Lot 59

Price Realized: $ 1,062
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(SLAVERY & ABOLITION.) Enigmatic small print titled "Black Status. William Tillman, Robert Small, Loyal-Hercules at the Capitol." Illustrated leaflet, 5 x 3 inches, plus integral blank; minor wear and foxing, horizontal folds, added pencil text. No place, circa 1862?

Additional Details

This piece defies proper explanation--but it is rare and intriguing. The woodcut illustration seems to depict a fugitive slave being attacked by dogs. The text reads in full: "Black Status. William Tillman, Robert Small, Loyal-Hercules at the Capitol, taking care of 'live friends of the 'Fugitive Law of 1850.'" It seems to date from the time of the Civil War. Tillman and Small had similar stories, both of them being Black men who commandeered Confederate vessels (in 1861 and 1862 respectively), and led them to safety in the North. Tillman fell back into obscurity after his heroics, but Small played an important role in convincing Lincoln to create Black regiments for the war effort, served in the Union Navy, and after the war embarked on a successful career in politics. This piece seems to celebrate his escape from slavery to help defeat the old "friends of the Fugitive Slave Act."

The added pencil text reads "July 9, 1845/Peter M. Garner/Crayton Loraine/Mordecai Thomas/Jan 10, 1846." This relates to three Underground Railroad supporters who were arrested on the Ohio shore and extradited to Virginia, where they were charged with aiding slaves to escape. How this connects to the printed caption is unclear, as the case took place 16 years before Robert Small rose to prominence. In short, this piece is apparently unique, and something of a mystery to us. Some smart person out there will have an explanation--and we look forward to hearing it!