By: Ashley Bond, SLIS graduate student
The University of Alabama Division of Special Collections acquired the “Reward Broadside for Runaway Slaves” this year from the William Reese Company’s collection of Americana.
This 1833 broadside is significant in the early history of Alabama printing, which began in the state in 1807 and became more common only after the first Huntsville newspaper was established in 1816. Broadsides traditionally were used as temporary flyers to quickly communicate information to the public and often served as an additional means of income to colonial printers. Because of their disposable nature, broadsides are rare documents today, and this specific reward broadside is the only known copy in existence.
The document begins by offering a twenty-five dollar reward to anyone who can locate Ned, a slave of Isaac Murray of Monroe County, East Tennessee, who ran away on March 12, 1833. Ned is described as being a slim, twenty-three or twenty-four-year-old man about five feet tall with a very light complexion and a very flat foot. He was last seen wearing a blue broadcloth coat, white cotton pantaloons, and a chipped hat along with various other garments not described. He is believed to have run away with Jeremiah Lillard’s slave Fountain, a dark-skinned, nineteen-year-old man of both white and black descent. The two traveled by canoe from Rhea County down the Tennessee River, left the canoe at Ross’s, continued over Lookout Mountain, and then obtained another canoe to travel down the south side of the river. The writer believes Ned and Fountain intended to reach Illinois and urges men traveling by boat to keep watch for the pair. Isaac Murray offers to pay reasonable expenses incurred in addition to the reward amount if the person who finds the runaway slaves delivers them to Murray or securely to a jail where they may later be obtained. The broadside is dated for April 9, 1833 on the same line as Isaac Murray’s name. A postscript at the bottom includes his name as well and asks that any letters containing additional information on the subject be forwarded to Florence A. within ten or twelve days or after to Madisonville, Monroe County, East Tennessee.
The print “Fariss, printer…..Advocate Office, Huntsville” at the very bottom center of this broadside indicates that it was printed by Dandridge Fariss (May 15, 1800 – June 30, 1887) at the Advocate Office in Huntsville, Alabama. Fariss was a printing apprentice at the Intelligence Office in Petersburg, Virginia until 1816. From there he moved to Tennessee and later to Huntsville, Alabama in April 1818, where he was a member of city legislature and a librarian. In 1823, he established the periodical the Alabamian, which later became the Southern Advocate in 1825. He retired from the publication in November 1837.