Slave Badges and the Slave-Hire System in Charleston, South Carolina, 1783–1865


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About the Book

The slave-hire system of Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1700s and the 1800s produced a curious object—the slave badge. The badges were intended to legislate the practice of hiring a slave from one master to another, and slaves were required by law to wear them. Slave badges have become quite collectible and have excited both scholarly and popular interest in recent years. This work documents how the slave-hire system in Charleston came about, how it worked, who was in charge of it, and who enforced the laws regarding slave badges. Numerous badge makers are identified, and photographs of badges, with commentary on what the data stamped on them mean, are included. The authors located income and expense statements for Charleston from 1783 to 1865, and deduced how many slaves were hired out in the city every year from 1800 on. The work also discusses forgeries of slave badges, now quite common. There is a section of 20 color plates.

About the Author(s)

Harlan Greene is head of special collections at Addlestone Library, College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Harry S. Hutchins, Jr., is an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Brian E. Hutchins lives in San Jose, California.

Bibliographic Details

Harlan Greene Harry S. Hutchins, Jr. and Brian E. Hutchins

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 44 photos (20 in color), appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008 [2004]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4090-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-2701-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Introduction      1

PART ONE: THE BADGE LAWS: A SUMMARY, 1670–1866      13
1. 1670–1822: Laws of the Colony and the Early Republic      15
2. 1823–1866: Laws of the Antebellum and Civil War Period      43

Between pages 66 and 67 are eight pages of plates depicting 39 slave badges

3. 1800–1810      69
4. 1811–1820      88
5. 1821–1830      100
6. 1831–1840      109
7. 1841–1850      120
8. 1851–1860      135
9. 1861–1865      158

Afterword: A Note on Counterfeits      169
Appendix 1: A Note on the Mathematical Formula      173
Appendix 2: A Note on Sources      175
Chapter Notes      179
Bibliography      187
Index      191

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “comprehensive…extremely thorough…exceptionally well written…thoughtfully prepared…wonderful…highly recommend[ed]”—North South Trader’s Civil War
  • “indispensable”—The South Carolina Historical Magazine
  • “a valuable compilation…useful…important”—The Journal of Southern History
  • “detailed analysis”—Georgia Historical Quarterly
  • “the copper badges, made by the tens of thousands, are now highly coveted artifacts that offer collectors a direct and irrefutable link to a troubling past”—Charleston’s Timely Tidbits & Newsy Snippets