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‘Has a Remarkable Twisting in His Hip’
Handicapped Carpenter John Cunning is Worth as Much as a Negro!

Mirror of the Times, and General Advertiser – Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday, August 13, 1803,

John Cunningham

Twenty Dollars Reward [1]

RAN away from the subscriber an Irish lad, an apprentice to the carpenter’s trade, calls himself John Cunning, and sometimes Cunningham, about 19 years of age, five feet seven or eight inches high, very dark hair and eyes, stoops when he walks and has a remarkable twisting in his hip. [2]

Took with him two pair of nankeen dark striped pantalets, 2 pair of check trowsers, 2 russia sheeting shirts, 1 black nankeen waistcoat, one yellow crossbared dimity do – 2 pair of shoes, one fur hat, one light nankeen outside jacket, one blue cloth do. &c. &c.

Whosoever takes up said apprentice and delivers him to the subscriber shall have the above reward and reasonable charges.


Wilmington, August 8th.

[Submitted to by Mary Kay Krogman]


1. The high reward offered for this physically handicapped apprentice indicates a slim supply of construction slaves and/or a long term of service, with 4 dollars normal for slaves in other trades doing 7 years. The Constitution of the United States did indicate that importation of ‘such persons’ would only continue until 1804, which might be a reason for holding onto the slaves you had.

2. Such injuries and conditions were unusual among black runaways and far more common among whites, possibly indicating that free white people who became injured and unable to pay debts might have been sold to satisfy their financial commitments.

America in Chains

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