To Visit Your Husband: Harriet Lawson’s Pass, 1832
Harriet Lawson carried this pass to visit her husband, Caleb, at work in a nearby town. As free blacks, the Lawsons could legally marry, but Maryland placed limits on their liberty. If they traveled without a pass, they could be fined $20 or sold into slavery.
The Back of Lawson’s Pass
If stopped, Lawson would face the humiliation of being physically inspected. This pass described her as: “Black, 29 yrs of age five feet high has a mole on the right side of her right eye no other perceptible mark.”
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
A free woman's pass for a free African American woman, Harriet Lawson, to visit her husband Caleb Lawson, signed in Frederick County, Maryland, on May 21, 1832. Davis Richardson is listed as the witness. The pass is on a single sheet of paper. There is handwriting in ink on both recto and verso, handwriting in pencil on verso only. The proper right side has discoloration and abrasions with loss of paper along the edge but no apparent loss of text. The ink writing from the verso side is visible faintly through to the recto side. Creases remain from the pass having been folded twice, once lengthwise and once widthwise.
The taper holder is a silver plated piece with three hallmarks or maker's marks pressed into the rim of the saucer/dish base. The center of the dish curves upward to support two curved parabolic prongs which curve out and up before meeting again at the top of the piece where they support a small metal cylinder with a circle cut in its center. A spool of candle wax wound on a thin metal rod with an oval handle is parallel to the base; the wax taper is threaded through the round metal piece at the top. There is a silver handle melded to rim just under the oval handle of the spool which unspools the beeswax taper. A small cone shaped candle-snuffer is attached to the PL prong by a hanging chain.
The glasses have round, circular lenses and thin metal temple bars made of the same material that frames the lenses. There are small, browned nose pads attached to the bridge. The glasses rest on a small, worn pink cloth inside of a velvet lined case. The case is metal and mostly covered with a patterned black material. Fading, illegible silver lettering is centered on the top lid of the case.
The book is hardback and brown in color; almost completely absent of design, it is only marked with the title printed on its spine in horizontally oriented gold text on a narrow section of black cover which is a slightly different material than the rest of the brown cover. The text reads [BOLLES'/PHONOGRAPHIC PRONOUNCING/DICTIONARY]. There are two embossed horizontal lines below the title on the spine.
An appraisal conducted on September 10, 1852 on a plantation owned by Elisha F. King in Bibbs County, Alabama. The appraisal is handwritten with blue ink, recorded on both sides of a single sheet of blue paper, folded in half to make four pages. Written in the top left corner of the front side is “State of Alabama / Perry County.” The document begins “Perry City personally appraised before me Sh[illegible] W. Sanders an acting Justice of the Piece [sic] in for said count John Edmond, [illegible] B. Moolley, Obadiah Belcher commissioners appointed by the House J. F. Bailey Judge of the probate court of Perry County for the purpose of appraising the personal property belonging to the estate of the late E. F. King…” The appraisal goes on to list the property at the plantation in Bibbs County, Alabama, over two pages. Making up the majority of the property are fourty-three enslaved men, women and children, listed as "negroes" with names and prices ranging from $350 to $1000. The enslaved are identified as:
Sarah & Child, Lucy & Child, Lane & 2 Children, Betty, Amy & 2 children, Mariah, Anacy, Tilda & 2 children, Catherine, Ann, Nelly, Rachael, Lizy, Susan, Mahaby, Phelan, Joseph, Caroline, Stokes, Jordain, Aalade, Dotia, Frank, Jacob, Merida, Noah, Sam, Moses, Fil, Jack, Isrel, Ben, Elijah, George, Mat
In addition to the enslaved persons, the property listing includes ten mules, also identified with names and prices, six cows and calves, 5 head of sheep, and other livestock; spades, hoes, iron wedges, blacksmith tools, a cotton gin and other plantation tools, a lot of bacon, and household furniture.
On the opposite side of the paper is a one page signed statement by Edwin W. King verifying the appraisal listing, dated September 21, 1852, and another page with the title "List of notes belonging to E of E.F. King." The page lists 15 debts with names, due dates, and amounts totaling $2617.60.