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‘The Property of Said Berry’
The History As Commodity of a 'Negro Man Named Peter'

Pennsylvania Packet – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, October 30, 1781

Peter AKA Dick Butcher

Two Half Johannesses Reward. [1]

RAN away from the subscriber, living in New Castle county, St. Georges hundred and Delaware state, a Negro Man named PETER, about 20 years of age, and about 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, is marked with the small pox, straight limbed and well made;

was raised in Kent county, Delaware state by a certain Peter Cooper, and afterwards given to a certain Joseph Berry, and after said Berry’s decease, sold by the sheriff of Kent county as the property of said Berry, to Nehemiah Tilton at Dover, of whom the subscriber purchased said negro, who ran away from me the 22d of February, in the year 1780; [2]

he has been formerly seen in Kent county, but since has been in Philadelphia, and was out the last cruise in the ship Congress, captain Geddes commander, and passed by the name of DICK BUTCHER.

Whoever takes up said Negro and secures him in any goal on the continent, or brings him to the subscriber, shall have the above reward.


[Submitted to by Mary Kay Krogman]


1. From the context this researcher is inclined to value the half- Johannesses at a British pound, but have been unable to find any historic valuation of this coin. Citation please.

2. While the sources indicate that the life of a white slave and of a black slave generally followed this same course of being owned multiple times by various owners, the runaway negroes seem to have the affection of the owners, who value the history of their life as a commodity above the discarded pasts of their white property, which was dismissed out of hand, as if the owners wished to know nothing concerning the past of a white salve. Indeed, most listings that mention a white slave’s claim of previous stations in life are accompanied by claims that this person is a boastful drunkard and a liar. Hence, the history as commodity of the Negro Peter, who preferred life as Dick Butcher, is much illustrative of the unrecorded lives of the nearly anonymous white slaves who died in their millions to build the same iniquitous place that consumed them and the collective memory of their earthly damnation.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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