ARCHIVE

Historic, Tragic 1840 Servant Charleston Slave Badge

No one pays more!

For high quality Washington medals. If you have rare or top condition Washington-
iana for sale or trade, contact us!

Historic, Tragic 1840 Servant Charleston Slave Badge

SOLD

Details

1840 Charleston Slave Badge. Servant, #1502. Copper, 56.8 x 55.5 mm. Very Fine. Pierced as issued, corners truncated as issued. An artifact whose survival echoes the survival of a city and a people, one that serves as both a tragic reminder of America's greatest failure and an individual, if unrecorded, tale of triumph. While several Southern cities had slave badge ordinances, only the tags from Charleston survive. They were purchased annually, much like dog tags (Charleston dog tags of this era look remarkably similar and were made in the same shop), to show that a slaveowner had paid the taxes on his slave. Fees varied depending upon occupation: those with the fewest skills and least freedom of movement (domestics, called "Servants") were at the bottom of the fee scale, while those with skills and freedom of movement (mechanics or craftsmen, fishers, and others) were the most expensive to license. Urban slaves experienced a quite different kind of life in bondage than plantation slaves. Many were subcontracted or "hired out" within the city, a practice that an enslaved worker who wore his or her badge could participate in, earning money for their master and, sometimes, for themselves as well. This ability to move around the city meant that urban slaves were far likelier to learn to read and write, develop commercial and personal relationships beyond their own household, and earn money that could lead to the ability to purchase their own (or their family's) freedom. While these opportunities led to a different quality of life than plantation slavery, it did little to diminish the sting of having the same legal standing as livestock, the potential to be killed or injured with no redress, and the constant fear of permanent family separation.

 

The enslaved Charlestonian who wore this badge at all times outside the home could have been male or female, old or young, a native of Charleston or purchased from somewhere else. They could have been single or part of a family. They could have had mostly black ancestry or mostly white ancestry. They could have been married or single, and their spouse could have been enslaved or free. They could have been alive with Denmark Vesey's planned revolt of 1822 shook Charleston's society, both white and black, to its core, and they could have lived long enough to see the day in February 1865 when Union troops took over Charleston, rendering those held in Charleston free.

 

This artifact bears a consistent deep olive and charcoal ground patina, its natural curvature preserved, its inscriptions clear. It tells many stories: of the day to day life of an enslaved American, of a bustling antebellum city, and of a million unknown triumphs and sadnesses. There is no more personal artifact of American slavery that a modern historically minded American can own and touch than a Charleston slave tag. Unlike most slavery-related relics in the modern marketplace, there is no question that this was used by an enslaved American (unlike, for instance, handcuffs, which rarely have solid provenance). Its authenticity is guaranteed forever. Slightly over 4000 tags of all occupations were made by Charleston smith William Rouse in 1840, though only a handful of them survive, most (likely all) found by metal detectorists.

 

Accompanied by its auction tag from Stack's Americana sale of January 2006, Lot 1036. Museums and institutions (or those planning on donating this tag to one) are invited to contact me for special terms.

Additional Information

Grading Service RAW
Grade RAW
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Not Specified
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 44011

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

Description

Details

1840 Charleston Slave Badge. Servant, #1502. Copper, 56.8 x 55.5 mm. Very Fine. Pierced as issued, corners truncated as issued. An artifact whose survival echoes the survival of a city and a people, one that serves as both a tragic reminder of America's greatest failure and an individual, if unrecorded, tale of triumph. While several Southern cities had slave badge ordinances, only the tags from Charleston survive. They were purchased annually, much like dog tags (Charleston dog tags of this era look remarkably similar and were made in the same shop), to show that a slaveowner had paid the taxes on his slave. Fees varied depending upon occupation: those with the fewest skills and least freedom of movement (domestics, called "Servants") were at the bottom of the fee scale, while those with skills and freedom of movement (mechanics or craftsmen, fishers, and others) were the most expensive to license. Urban slaves experienced a quite different kind of life in bondage than plantation slaves. Many were subcontracted or "hired out" within the city, a practice that an enslaved worker who wore his or her badge could participate in, earning money for their master and, sometimes, for themselves as well. This ability to move around the city meant that urban slaves were far likelier to learn to read and write, develop commercial and personal relationships beyond their own household, and earn money that could lead to the ability to purchase their own (or their family's) freedom. While these opportunities led to a different quality of life than plantation slavery, it did little to diminish the sting of having the same legal standing as livestock, the potential to be killed or injured with no redress, and the constant fear of permanent family separation.

 

The enslaved Charlestonian who wore this badge at all times outside the home could have been male or female, old or young, a native of Charleston or purchased from somewhere else. They could have been single or part of a family. They could have had mostly black ancestry or mostly white ancestry. They could have been married or single, and their spouse could have been enslaved or free. They could have been alive with Denmark Vesey's planned revolt of 1822 shook Charleston's society, both white and black, to its core, and they could have lived long enough to see the day in February 1865 when Union troops took over Charleston, rendering those held in Charleston free.

 

This artifact bears a consistent deep olive and charcoal ground patina, its natural curvature preserved, its inscriptions clear. It tells many stories: of the day to day life of an enslaved American, of a bustling antebellum city, and of a million unknown triumphs and sadnesses. There is no more personal artifact of American slavery that a modern historically minded American can own and touch than a Charleston slave tag. Unlike most slavery-related relics in the modern marketplace, there is no question that this was used by an enslaved American (unlike, for instance, handcuffs, which rarely have solid provenance). Its authenticity is guaranteed forever. Slightly over 4000 tags of all occupations were made by Charleston smith William Rouse in 1840, though only a handful of them survive, most (likely all) found by metal detectorists.

 

Accompanied by its auction tag from Stack's Americana sale of January 2006, Lot 1036. Museums and institutions (or those planning on donating this tag to one) are invited to contact me for special terms.

Additional

Additional Information

Grading Service RAW
Grade RAW
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Not Specified
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 44011

Related Blog Article(s)

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

Post your comment

John Kraljevich Americana