Run, Run Away



In case anyone was wondering, the title of my blog comes from this runaway ad about all-around badass Eleanor Armstrong ~

Six Dollars Reward. Run away on the 18th of October, 1771, at night, from the subscriber, living at the Sign of the Bible-in-Heart, in Strawberry alley, an indented servant woman, named Eleanor Armstrong, about 5 feet 4 inches high, pretty lusty, brown complexion, large featured, dark sooty coloured hair, about 26 years of age, has a large mouth, and an excellent sett of teeth; she takes snuff immoderately at the right side of her nose, says she was born near the city of Armagh, in Ireland, and came to this city in the Newry Packet, Captain Robinson, in June last; had on, and took with her, when she went away, a long chintx wrapper, of a yellow ground, with large red and brown sunflowers the patter, the sleeves pieced near the cuff, with red and brown spotted calicoe, and broke under the arms; and over said wrapper, a short gown, with some red and white stripes and sprigs through it, a good deal worn, and pieced under the arms with check linen, the colour much faded; a new camblet skirt, of a deep blue, and one old ditto, of a light blue colour, a good small check apron, of a bad colour, a green Barcelona handkerchief, much faded, one large blue and white check ditto, marked in one corner E.E. a clean cap with a black sattin ribbon, tied round her head, and brought under the chin, a blue cloth cloak, with a cap to it, tied at the neck with a narrow worsted tape; an old changeable silk bonnet, lined with blue silk, and tied with ah white ribbon; 3 coarse shifts, one of which is a homespun, with a pair of fine sleeves, one ozenbrigs ditto, and one coarse tow ditto, with broken ruffles on the same, a pair of blue yarn stockings, a pair of coarse white ditto, a pair of mens shoes, half soaked, with one brass buckle, and one steel ditto, pierced in the rim; she wore on the middle finger of her right hand a brass ring, is much given to liquor, and when in liquor, is apt to laugh greatly, speaks with the Irish tone. As she takes delight in no other work than spinning, it is thought she has hired herself some where in the county for that purpose; and, as she hath been gone so long, it is probable she has changed her dress; she will be apt to alter her name to Fulton; she was seen in Burlington a few weeks ago, in company with another woman. All masters of vessels and others, are forbid to harbor or carry her off, as they may depend upon being proceeded against, as the law directs. Whoever takes up and secures said servant, so that her master may have her again, shall receive the above reward, with reasonable charges, paid by William Evitt. {Pennsylvania Gazette, April 2, 1772}

To put it bluntly, runaway ads were the human equivalent of Lost Dog signs on a telephone pole. Slaves and workers that were owned, either under indentured servitude or a contract, were valuable property. These advertisements in 18th century American newspapers offer insight into the habits and appearance of the lower classes whom we would otherwise know very little about. They are in turns funny and sad.

For more of these ads, I recommend Don Hagist’s Wives, Slaves and Servant Girls or The Geography of Slavery in Virginia.

The soundtrack to this blog post is Cults – Bad Things.


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