University Archives

Lot 316

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Description: Slavery in 19th C. Virginia: "1 Negro man 1 Negro woman 3 Negro Children"

1p ADS from Montgomery County, Virginia dated November 1816. The probate record of the deceased man, a certain John Ross, was signed by three appraisers at bottom: James Woods as "Jas Woods"; William E. Rutledge as "Wm E Rutledge"; and Jonah Henderson as "Jonah Henderson". Docketed verso. Overall light toning, minor paper folds, and a few chipped edges, else near fine. 7.25" x 12.75". Exhibition history: Exhibited as part of a temporary installation at the Wilton Historical Society, Wilton, Connecticut, 2019.

In part, with unchanged spelling:

"In obedience to an order from the County Court of Montgomery to us Derected we hre peceded to apprais the perconal part of the Estate of John Ross Dect as followethe…

1 Brass Clock 1 Cubbard fall leaf Table 1 Small table 55.50

1 Candle Stand 1 Pare wool shears 2 Candle sticks 2.25…"

John Ross's estate was appraised at around $2,100 in late 1816 (or $37,600 in 2019 currency). More than half of the estate value was derived from its largest single entry: "1 Negro man 1 Negro woman 3 Negro Children." The slaves are listed in the livestock section of the document, in between hogs, sheep, and cattle, and geese, calves, and horses. Based on the distribution of gender and age, Ross's five slaves might have been a family.

Although not a spectacularly wealthy man, Ross did have many possessions. His appraisers dutifully listed his household goods, like case furniture and kitchen utensils, and also itemized the extensive array of tools used to operate his farm. Ross also owned luxury goods such as a "Brass Clock," "a Looking glass," and a "Libary of Books."

Montgomery County, Virginia is located in western central Virginia, about 30 miles southwest of Roanoke. The appraisal evaluation of Ross's five slaves is consistent with their estimated historical value over time. In 1850, for example, the average price of a slave was $400. Male slaves consistently fetched higher prices while children, the elderly, the infirm, or the recalcitrant did not.

A document poignantly reminding us of our past as a slave-dependent economy and society.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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September 30, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Wilton, CT, US

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000