SLAVE BADGES/ SLAVE TAGS
Although other southern cities such as, New Orleans, Richmond, Savannah, and Wilmington,N.C. passed ordinances similar to Charleston's slave badge laws, only Charleston seems to have implemented them. As noted in the book,Slaves in the Family, Charleston was the "Jerusalem of slavery, it's capital and center of faith". More slaves were imported through Charleston than any other American city.
Early slave owners employed many methods to maximize their slave ownership. Many would hire their slaves out to others to do work for considerably less pay than similar poor white labor would cost. This angered and produced resentment among the poor white labor force, which resulted in them calling upon those who wrote the laws to intervene. The lawmakers then legislated the slave hire laws which produced slave badges/slave tags.
Among people who collect and sell slave tags, it is commonly accepted that they were made from 1800 thru 1865. The conclusion of the Civil War being the end of slavery and of slave tags. It is less known that slave tags were also produced in Charleston from 1783 through 1790. None of these slave tags from this period have ever been found. It may be that these slave tags were written on paper or produced on a tin type metal that could not survive these 200 plus years since the end of their use.
I have excavated slave tags in all their states of disarray. The years and the salt and acidic soils have not been kind to the copper metal that slave tags are inscribed upon. While some people believe that slave tags should be kept in their excavated state, I believe that, like most excavated artifacts, slave tags need some cleaning and preservation methods applied to stop further deterioration. This only insures their future survival.
I confess there was a time, awhile back, when I was being introduced as an expert on slave tags, I was inclined to believe it. I have since learned better. In short, there is truth in the adage that the more one learns, the more one needs to learn, and that among artifacts and relics there are no experts, only elderly students. Indeed, the "HUCKSTER" slave tag that I excavated some years ago caused quite a stir in the slave tag collecting community! It was a slave occupation heretofore not heard of. And, of course, much proof was and had to be given to the so called slave tag "experts" of the time before it was accepted as genuine. Today, the validity of the Huckster slave tag is accepted as commonly as a Servant slave tag. Indeed, my friend and fellow collector,Cal Packer of Mansfield,Ohio, is considering a book entitled "The Tale of the Huckster".
These are the known slave tag occupations. Servant,Porter,Mechanic, Fruiterer,Fisher,Carpenter,Huckster. There is also an 1800 Washer slave tag. It is little known,been seen by a very few,and in a private collection.I have no doubts about it's authenticity. For the year of 1800 only, slave tags were made by Ralph Atmar. The name "Atmar" appears on the back of the 1800 year only. Slave tags were made by Charles Prince from 1801 through 1809 and C. Prince will appear as the back mark for these years. In 1810 John Joseph Lafar began making slave tags and this continued until 1828. Some of Lafar's slave tags have the back mark of "Lafar" while a few years in the mid 1820's have the back mark of J.J. Lafar. Also, during the mid 1820's some of Lafar's back marks appear on the front of the slave tag as opposed to the reverse. Beginning in 1829 there are no back marks on slave tags and the more the city took over production the smaller and thinner they got. This has led to many of them just flat out disintegrating in the ground. And another note here about rarity: In the early 1800's there is archival evidence that slave tags were being turned back in at the end of the year to the City Treasurer before new ones were issued...thus making these early slave tags even rarer.
Recently, there has been a movement to have a coin grading service grade and authenticate slave tags because of the many fakes being sold at auctions such as Ebay. With all the learning materials available to today's collectors there is little need to pay more money for an already expensive artifact.Also, most experienced people in this field of collecting will be more than happy to tell you if a slave tag is authentic or not and that includes myself. So, if you are considering collecting slave tags, I would suggest that one do a little research, the material is readily available. I offer a lifetime guarantee of authenticity on my slave tags.If you have slave tags, I also offer a cleaning and preservation service. Happy collecting.
Provenance literally means the origin of a historical object whether it is a relic,painting, fossil etc.The provenance of antiquities is of great importance especially to their owner. A good and true provenance increases the value of artifacts and make a considerable difference to its selling price in the marketplace. It also can confirm the authenticity of an artifact. And the provenance of an artifact can help remove ownership disputes.An example of good and true provenances would ne my Market Street site. And many more. Add to that my reputation for integrity, no trespassing policy, and history of many historic excavations. Let me help the conscientious collector and dealer by first saying that all property in Charleston,SC is private. And the property "near" Charleston,S.C. is also private. And the new state laws prohibit removal of historic objects from state land.
W.W. WILBUR AUCTION HOUSE TOKEN
WW WILBUR WAS AN AUCTIONEER OR SLAVES AMONG OTHER TRADES. THIS TOKEN, WHICH WAS ISSUED WITH A VALUE OF 1CENT WAS USED AS AN ADVERTISING PIECE. IT IS THE SAME SIZE AS A LARGE CENT. STAMPED WITH 1846 DATE. FRONT HAS AN AUCTIONEER WITH A GAVEL IN CENTER ENCIRCLED WITH THE WORDS "W.W. WILBUR , AUCTION AND COMMISSION MERCHANT, 1846 CHARLESTON,SO.CA. THE REVERSE HAS AN IMAGE OF A PALMETTO TREE ENCIRCLED BY THE WORDS: "MERCHANTS AND MANUFACTURERS AGENT,COLLECTION BROKER NOTARY PUBLIC &C.
THE FOLLOWING SLAVE TAGS ARE NOT FOR SALE. THEY ARE INTENDED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. HERE YOU WILL FIND EXAMPLES OF A WIDE VARIETY OF SLAVE TAGS AND SOME OF THE RAREST SLAVE TAGS KNOWN. MY SITE IS COPY- WRITED AND THESE PICTURES CANNOT BE USED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.
In 1848, the leaders of the Charleston Neck,( the area north of present day Calhoun Street) asked the city of Charleston for a share of the money being made on slave tags. In these early times, the neck area was not incorporated into the city of Charleston and was governed by a board of commissioners. Of course, the city refused sharing any of the proceeds, resulting in the Charleston Neck government making it's own slave badges. This continued for 3 years until the Charleston Neck was incorporated into the city of Charleston. So, for the years 1848,1849 and 1850 there are 2 completely different types of slave tags made. While both types of neck tags are rare, the Charleston Neck-Neck tags are the rarer. Notice the word "neck" underneath the word Charleston on the City of Charleston slave tags .The Charleston Neck slave tags are of much simpler design. Because of this simpler design, these slave tags are easier to fake. If you plan on buying one of these it would be very prudent to know who excavated it and where. Below, you will see pictures of an 1848 Porter Charleston Neck tag and a 1850 Servant City of Charleston neck tag that I excavated. Part of the reason for the glaring differences is that it was easier for police on patrol to spot slaves without the appropriate slave tag.
1850 City neck slave tag 1848 CN neck slave tag
1849 City neck slave tag
1803 "HUCKSTER" SLAVE TAG
WHEN I EXCAVATED THIS SLAVE TAG, IT CAUSED QUITE AN UPROAR IN THE SLAVE TAG FIELD. THIS WAS, AT THE TIME, A NEW SLAVE OCCUPATION. THE "EXPERTS" OF THE TIME WERE SKEPTICAL TO SAY THE LEAST! THIS IS THE ONE THEY ALL TALK ABOUT. NOW THE OCCUPATION OF "HUCKSTER" IS ACCEPTED AS COMMONLY AS A SERVANT SLAVE TAG!
HERE IS ONE OF THE RARER SLAVE TAGS.
IT IS A "DOUBLE STAMP". DURING THE CIVIL WAR, THE UNION BLOCKADE OF
CHARLESTON MADE IT INCREASING HARD TO GET ALL COMMODITIES, SO SOME SLAVE
TAGS FROM THE PREVIOUS YEARS WERE USED AGAIN AND STAMPED ON THE
REVERSE SIDE. IN ALMOST ALL CASES, THIS RESULTS IN THE NEWEST STAMP
BLEEDING THROUGH THE METAL AND NEGATING A LOT OF THE EARLIER STAMPING.
THIS ACTUALLY HELPED PREVENT THE USE OF A PREVIOUS YEARS SLAVE TAG. 1862
SERVANT IS ON ONE SIDE AND 1861 SERVANT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS SLAVE
TAG. AND THEY ACTUALLY STARTED TO STAMP IT A THIRD TIME! THAT LITTLE
HOLE YOU SEE IS THE PUNCHED THROUGH "O" IN CHARLESTON. THE STON IS
VISIBLE ON THE 1862 SIDE DOWN BY THE NUMBER 40. I GUESS THEY REALIZED
THAT THE METAL COULDN'T TAKE ANOTHER STAMPING AND JUST GAVE UP ON
1810 FISHER 1811 FISHER
1812 FISHER 1815 FISHER
1816 FISHER...REALLY NICE 1824 FISHER..ONLY NO.1 KNOWN!!
VERY FINE 1827 FISHER SLAVE TAG V.FINE 1828 FISHER
A GROUPING OF 5 SLAVE TAGS SHOWING DIFFERENT SHAPES &SIZES
1864 FRUITERER SLAVE TAG. A RARE OCCUPATION AND A RARE YEAR. AS THE CIVIL WAR WOUND DOWN, THE PROVERBIAL WRITING ON THE WALL WAS BEING REALIZED AND NOT MANY SLAVE TAGS WERE BEING BOUGHT OR MADE.
1844 FRUITERER 1850 FRUITERER