“A man of wealth”: Samuel Packard, the Rhode Island slaver

In March 2018, I first wrote about Samuel Packard, my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, and his role in the transatlantic slave trade as a slaver, otherwise known as a slave trader. [1] Thanks to a new database, Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade, I found that Samuel’s role as a slaver was much more extensive than I had originally believed. His acts helped reinforce what Isabel Wilkerson describes as a racial caste system that uses rigid, arbitrary boundaries to keep groupings of people apart. [2] Such a system reinforces a social order supported by culture and passes through the generations, with the signal of one’s rank in the hierarchical system as determined by race, with terms like “black” and “white” applied to people’s apperance. However, Wilkerson argues that caste is rigid and fixed, while race is superficial and subject to change to meet the needs of the dominant caste within the United States. Ultimately, inherited physical characteristics are used to differentiate “inner abilities and group value” and maintain and manage the caste system within the United States. In the case of Samuel, he was part of this system, reinforcing it with his actions time and time again, like some of my other ancestors. [3] However, as I noted in the past, that he was not a slaveowner. This article aims to pull away the false narrative used to cover up the history of enslavement and how offensive the institution of slavery was itself, noting the part Samuel played in this history, recognizing who he is as a person, following the advice of Beth Wylie, a White female genealogist. This article also aims to not make White people comfortable with the past or sugarcoat anything, but challenge existing notions, as suggested by Black genealogist Adrienne Fikes in early June.

Of the 402 ships which sailed from Rhode Island to Africa from 1784 and 1807, 55 of them came from Providence, accounting for 14 percent of the state’s slave trade. [4] One of those ships was a  sloop named General Greene, registered in Providence. On November 16, 1793, it began sailing from Rhode Island. The ship was owned by Samuel Packard, Cyprian Sterry, Philip Allen, and Zachary Allen.  [5] Helmed by a captain named “Ross,” the General Greene arrived in Gorée, Senegambia sometime in 1793, with 101 souls loaded onto the ship by force. By the time the ship had reached the Dutch colony of Suriname, sometime in April 1794, only 84 enslaved Black people, who had been trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean, were remaining. This meant that 17%, or 17 people, died during the Middle Passage. In Suriname, enslaved Black people were needed, as were Indigenous people, to make the colony viable, even though enslaved Black people were treated terribly, and many escaped their plantations. [6] The Zachary Allen noted here was undoubtedly the father of the textile manufacturer born in 1795, who was born in 1739. He has been described as a “successful merchant” who amassed a great quantity of capital. It is not known who the “Philip Allen”  was and whether the said person was related to the manufacturer born in 1785.

On July 12, 1794, the General Greene returned to its home port somewhere in Rhode Island. The owners had been paid, the ship was not captured, and the enslaved Black people disembarked. In this trip and for all slave ships, the captain was completely in charge, with the duty to “navigate an efficient course, maintain authority over the crew, fill the vessel to capacity with enslaved peoples, and negotiate a high sale price for the enslaved cargo at port markets.” [7] Sadly, we do not know the names of the 101 people who were aboard the General Greene in bondage at the beginning of the journey, nor those at the end, we only know the number of those aboard the vessel.

A slave trader of Gorée, engraving of c. 1797, by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, via Wikimedia, but in public domain

Gorée is infamous for being the House of Slaves, which was built between 1780 and 1784 by an Afro-French family, the Métis. It has been described as having “one of the slave warehouses through which Africans passed on their way to the Americas,” symbolic no matter how many Africans passed through, especially when it comes to its “door of no return.” In the case of Senegambia (present-day Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau, portions of Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea), in 1794, it was partitioned between the French and British. This journey may also be the one the Philadelphia Inquirer referred to in September 1794 when it talked about a Captain Samuel Packard traveling from Barbados, which was then part of the British West Indies. [8] As for Cyprian, he was one of the biggest slave traders in Providence, he “financed at least 18 voyages that transported more than 1,500 enslaved persons to the southern United States and the Caribbean during the 1790s.”

Later that year, on November 28, 1794, the General Greene departed once more from Rhode Island, this time with John Stanton as the captain. [9] It would go on a 196 day voyage. The ship reached Iles de Los sometime in 1795, with 99 souls forced aboard. When it reached Savannah, Georgia in May of that year, only 88 remained, meaning 11% had died when trafficked across the Atlantic. The General Greene returned back to Rhode Island sometime after June of the same year. Iles de Los is a set of Islands off Conakry, Guinea. At the time, there was a trading post employing workers who repaired ships, and pilots for rivers, on the island. It would be controlled by the British beginning in 1818 and ending in 1904, later to be part of French Guinea from 1904 to 1958. Those on the islands were the Baga people and spoke the Baga language, specifically a Kaloum or Kalum dialect. That same year as the General Greene left the state, the African Union Society of African descendants in Rhode Island was organized in Providence to serve the needs of Black people in the state itself. [10] In Georgia, slavers from Rhode Island, especially in the early 1790s, dominated the slave trade to the state. Samuel and Cyprian were integral to this trade, with the latter described as the “wealthiest ship owner and most active slave trader” in the state. Again, the names of those on the ship were not listed, so we only know the number of those on the ship.

Sometime in 1795, James Earl, a Massachusetts-born artist, released his unsigned 35 x 29 oil painting, on canvas, of Samuel, then 45 years old. RISD described this painting as signaling his “social and professional role in the new republic,” as he sits in a Windsor Chair, noting his waistcoat indicates he is “a man of wealth,” with the background referring to his “interests in maritime trade.” The museum also calls him a “merchant and talented mariner,” who owned 39 vessels that sailed from Providence itself. Of course, his role in the slave trade is never mentioned. This is not a surprise, as the 1942 profile of Samuel in the Rhode Island History notes the same. [11] Furthermore, the absence of the slave trade from Earl’s painting is not unique. As Edna Gabler points out, Black people in paintings by Charles Wilson Peale, John Trumbull, and others, “occupy subordinate positions, are rarely identified by name, and are most often used as props, background accessories, or foils,” or, in this case, not mentioned at all.

The following year, on October 24, 1795, the Ann, a ship registered in Providence, and owned by Samuel and Cyprian, departed from Rhode Island. [12] Unlike the other journeys, Samuel was the captain. The ship would land somewhere on the African continent, with 133 people forced aboard. 70% of these African captives were men, about 26% were boys, and around 4% were women. Almost 26% of those aboard were children. 13 of these souls, 10% to be exact, would die during the Middle Passage. When the ship arrived at Spanish-controlled city of Havana, in Cuba, sometime in August 1796, only 120 remained, and all those in bondage disembarked there, with Samuel and the ship returning to Rhode Island. At the time, Havana was one of “the largest slave markets in the world,” with over 600,000 Africans taken from West Africa and shipped to Cuba over three centuries. The Ann would later be sold in Havana, seemingly in September 1796. [13] Like with the other ships noted in this article, those in bondage aboard the Ann are not named, a clear form of dehumanization.

An enslaved Afro-Cuban in the 19th century, via Wikimedia Commons

At the time, landowners were beginning to win concessions that would change how land would be owned in Cuba, a process that would continue until 1820. [14] Values of land were rising and Cuban planters were consolidating their power on the island, importing machines from other European colonies, like those in the British West Indies, to strengthen the sugar industry. When Samuel landed in Cuba, he would have seen the beginning of changes in Cuban society, with population numbers beginning to rise, as did profits and agricultural production, with new position for the class of Cuban Creoles. The number of enslaved Black people on the island increased as demand for more workers continued to grow, especially after the import of White workers wasn’t successful. An average of 1,143 enslaved Black folks in chains were brought into Cuba each year, between 1763 and 1789. The plantations in the British West Indies, including Barbados, the Leeward Islands, Jamaica, Ceded Islands, Trinidad, and British Guiana, were very profitable, with the average rate of profit being 6.1% between 1792 and 1798, based on the plantations studied. [15] Even so, the end of a sugar boom in the 1790s led politicians and planters to demand that the slave trade be ended once and for all.

On January 9, 1796, the James, a schooner registered in Providence, owned by Samuel and Cyprien,  with Albert Fuller as the captain, departed from Rhode Island. [16] It went on a 216-day voyage. Once in Africa, 119 souls were forced aboard the ship in bondage. By the time it arrived in Savannah, Georgia, in mid-August 1796, only 98 enslaved Black people were remaining. As a result, 17.5%, or 21 people, had died along the way. The ship returned to Rhode Island by late October 1796. The ship later had Nathan Sterry as its captain when registered in January 1797, with Samuel as its owner. Sterry would also be the captain of a ship, the Mary, upon which three enslaved Black people attempted a mutiny to escape their conditions by taking control of the ship, even though this was, unfortunately, not successful. In this last illegal slave trading expedition which Samuel was involved in, those in chains, aboard the James, were again only listed as a number, but no names were provided.

Painting of Moses Brown via NPS

On March 11, 1797, the Providence Abolition Society petitioned then-Attorney General Charles Lee, charging that the Ann, a ship of Cyprian and Samuel, had sailed under Samuel’s command to travel to the African coast for enslaved people, even though this violated Rhode Island law. [17] A law had been passed in 1774 which made it illegal for citizens of the state to bring enslaved people into the state unless they had a bond to “bring them out again within one year” and those people brought to the state in defiance of the law would be “set free.” However, the law caused slavers to sell captives in other ports while bringing their capital back to Rhode Island with them. The later was followed in later years, in 1787, by a measure which “banned participation by Rhode Islanders in the African slave trade.” [18] Some argued that the state’s involvement in the slave trade was “part of a scramble by merchants to find something to trade and to market”with those involved earning a sizable profit. Following the enactment of the law in Rhode Island,  similar laws passed in Connecticut and Massachusetts after being pressured by Quaker merchant merchant Moses Brown  and Samuel Hopkins, a minister. The critical factor, according to I. Eliot Wentworth of University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Special Collections & University Archives, of these laws was enforcing them, and when that did not happen, it lead to the creation of the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade. [19] It was mostly comprised of Quakers and had a membership of about 180 members. The society would face resistance from those invested in the trade, but still “played a valued role in supporting individuals of African descent in defending their rights in court.” It won a judgement against  Caleb Gardner, a merchant, in 1791, for “carrying out a slaving voyage in his brigantine Hope.”

Cyprian, who owned half of the ships involved in the illegal slave trade, left it behind in order to avoid a crippling fine, signing a pledge to leave the slave trade forever, as did Samuel, from what I have read. [20] These efforts, like those of the Providence Abolition Society, were important since legislation against slave-trading in Rhode Island was hard to enforce, as noted earlier. For instance, a merchant and influential slaveowner named John Brown, a person who was instrumental in founding Brown University,  tried in 1796 for violating the Slave Trade Act of 1794, prohibiting ships in American ports from bringing in enslaved people from any foreign country. At first he was convicted and his ship, the Hope, was confiscated for violation of federal law. However, as the case went through the legal system, he was ultimately acquitted, in a jury trial, “emerging with an acquittal and a judgment for costs against the Providence Abolition Society.” [21] He even cited the arrangement the society made with Cyprian as part of a plea to stop prosecution against him. As it turned out, the judge who presided over the case (Benjamin Bourn) and the federal prosecutor (Ray Greene) were allies of Brown, and the trial itself had a “devastating effect on the Providence Abolition Society, which went into a rapid decline.” This was because, while by 1793, the Providence Society’s activity had shifted to pushing for federal legislation, it remained dormant from February 1793 to November 1821. The Society was revived  by David Howell and its name changed to the Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, continuing to meet until 1827. John later beat another prosecution in 1798, and in 1799, Samuel Bosworth, Surveyor of the Port of Bristol, was kidnapped by eight men dressed by Indigenous people, intimidating officials and putting a “halt to local enforcement of the Slave Trade Act” within Rhode Island.

Via RISD, also painted by James Earl, and in the public domain

Samuel went onto become a wealthy shipowner and merchant who lived in a three-story-high lavish mansion in Providence with his wife Abigail Congdon. [22] He had married Abigail on December 13, 1789 at n 1798, Abigail inherited a portion of the Congdon homestead farm on Boston Neck. Samuel and Abigail had a number a children in later years, clearly living in Providence in 1800, just as he had in 1790. Their children included Abigail in 1802, Samuel in 1804, and Susan in 1806. By 1804, Samuel would work for the Providence Insurance Company, which ensured products like sugar, lived at Westminster Street in Providence (a property he bought in 1797). [23] The Providence Insurance Company was founded on the initiative “of the Browns,” including John, the arrogant slaver, in 1799. Other prominent shopping merchants, like Thomas Poynton Ives, John Innes Clarke, and Moses Lippitt, were on its board of directors.  Samuel would be a member of the Providence Marine Society (PMS) and part of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery after March 1803. [26] The latter group, founded in 1801 by PMS members, was a “private mutual aid society for sea captains,” and while it later became part of the Rhode Island militia, the group itself “never served in active combat.” The PMS, on the other hand, was a “mutual aid society for sea captains” founded in 1798.

Samuel also, reportedly, remembered George Washington fondly. This was not a surprise. In 1788, Olney Winsor, son of Samuel Windsor, a pastor of the Baptist Church of Providence, traveled to Alexandria on a sloop of which Samuel was the captain: the Susan. Both landed in Alexandria, went to a plantation at Col. Mason’s Neck, seeing the control of slavemasters over those they enslaved firsthand, and met with George Washington himself.

By 1798, Cyprian was still living in Providence, owning a house, with a tenant: Brown & Ives, said to be a leader “in American commerce and industry for many years,” and part of the Brown family which financed Brown University. [24] The company had been formed in a partnership between Nicholas Brown and Thomas Poynton Ives in 1791. The same year, Samuel is reported as having to have a summer house, house and barn, and perhaps another barn elsewhere in the city.

This wealth would not be possible without his involvement in the illegal slave trade which trafficked human beings from Africa back to the Americas in bondage. Let us be clear. Samuel, like Cyprian, might be called a human trafficker in today’s language, if what he did happened today, although the comparison of present-day human trafficking and the transatlantic slave trade is not exact due to the differences between these oppressive systems of exploitation. [25] When they were alive, however, Samuel and Cyprian would likely be called slavers or slave traders. We don’t know if Abigail had any role or say in Samuel’s involvement in the trade, as we have no written records from her that I am aware of at this time. Even so, she still benefited from it, as she lived a life of luxury with Samuel until his death in 1820.

Samuel would also reportedly own land in Cranston, Rhode Island and in Illinois, along with a home in North Kingston, while building a house on the land his wife inherited on the death of her father, John Congdon. [27] Items from his houses are currently in RISD.  John’s grandfather, Benjamin, was reputed to be a huge slaveowner, while John, who had ten children with his wife, Abigail Rose. He received a tract of land of unknown acreage in Boston Neck, on his father’s death, and then in October 1, 1803, Thomas R. Congdon sold one hundred and fifty acres of the farm to Samuel Packard, later known as the “Packard Farm,” later reaching 500 acres. John’s father, according to a 1765 listing, had seven enslaved people, one man (Coff), two young boys (Roshad and Tom), one woman (Tent), and three others (Cato, Fortune, and Jimie), working for him, which he manumitted at the time. [28]

In 1811, Samuel was aboard a ship when it French privateers raided the vessel, and how he tried to take back the ship, but was captured. [29] He would be at sea for eight days, then in a French prison for another eight days. They remained in France for another three months until they were allowed to go home. 17 years earlier, on February 4, 1794, France had abolished slavery, declaring that “all men irrespective of color living in the colonies are French citizens” but it was not reinforced, and Napoleon re-instituted it on July 16, 1802. He still remained in Providence, as he had in years prior, specifically in the city’s West District. [30]

Screenshot of the cemetery where Samuel and Abigail are buried with a close-up of the cemetery taken from Google Earth

He died in July 1820, [31] while Abigail died in May 1854. Before her death, she established the Providence Female Charitable Society, which aided “indigent women and children.” Both Samuel and Abigail are buried at Historic New England’s Casey Farm. While no wills or probates are available from them, both were of a higher class than others in Rhode Island and more broadly in New England. For Samuel, land ownership remained an important marker of civic identity and a measure of independence, as it was for other Americans, as historian Nancy Isenberg points out.  This was based on the idea that people were not free unless they had “the economic wherewithal” to control their destiny, which comes from land ownership, deriving from an old English idea that the “quality of the soil determines the quality of the people.”

Coming back to Samuel, his wealth derived, in part, as noted earlier, from trafficking enslaved Black people who were taken from their homelands by force. What he did was illegal, since the passage of a Rhode Island law in 1787 prohibiting it, and the Slave Trade Act of 1794, the latter with possible seizure of ships and a $2,000 fine, a law amended many times over the years until the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves passed in 1807. Even so, he still engaged in the trade despite the illegality, meaning, if he had been charged for his crimes, and convicted, he would have paid a total of $2,400, in, let’s say, 1797. [32] This would likely have been a drop in the bucket for him. If assessed today, he would be paying $47,900.00, in terms of real price/real wealth, one of the most accurate measures, tied to CPI, according to Measuring Worth.  In any case, what Samuel did went against “justice, integrity, and uprightness among people,” in the words of the Quakers, who petitioned the Rhode Island legislature to abolish the slave trade in June 1787, participating in what they called an “unrighteous and inhuman trade to Africa for Slaves,” complete with “cruel bondage.”

Hopefully this article is a step in reworking and reframing narratives, as Adrienne Fikes pointed in June of this year. It is part of, what she talks about, in understanding who you are, who are in relation to others, who you come from, who your ancestors are, while looking at harm of past and its impact today. She also points out the value of  sharing what you find with descendants of future generations, as does Donya Williams and Brian Sheffey of Genealogy Adventures (those who interviewed Fikes), noting the importance of think of microaggressions and pain involved in Black genealogy. Fikes also argues, rightly, that understanding structural racism, and noting the evolution of slavery, not seeing it in past tense. Furthermore, she says recognizing the humanity of people is important as is the current reality of dignity and humanity stolen from Black people, as is generational wealth. With this all being said, I look forward to hearing from you all as I continue to research my enslaved ancestors, as part of actively doing something to dismantle a system which privileges White people, uncovering more stories of my ancestors, even if it is difficult and disturbing at times to confront. [33]


Notes

[1] Merriam-Webster defines a slaver as someone involved in the slave trade while the Cambridge English Dictionary says it is a person who sold slaves, Wikitionary it is “a person engaged in the slave trade” and Collins English Dictionary defines the word as “an owner of or dealer in slaves.” No matter the definition we chose, it is another word for someone who is a slave trader.

[2] Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (New York: Random House, 2020), 17-20.

[3] This includes Zachariah Packard, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand uncle (see “Zachariah Packard: the slaveowner” along with mentions within “Chapter III: The Packards in Bridgewater,” “Massachusetts tax inventory and two Packards“; “The story of Nathan Packard“) and his children, Charles Chilion Packard, my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle who “had the ten slaves from the estate of his wife’s deceased first husband” in 1820, the Packards that lived in New England who were involved in that the region depended on a “trading system that serviced the wealthier slave-based economy of the West Indies,” which constituted an interconnected trade network. Contrasting this is my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, William Packard organizing “a petition asking the United States Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade in DC,”  Rev. Theophilus Packard who is my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, a dedicated anti-slavery crusader, Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, who is my great-great-great-great aunt in-law, seemed to scowl at her sentiments that slavery was a sin, along with William Henry Packard (my great-great-great grandfather) who fought in Louisiana during the Civil War and my great-great-great grandfather Lawrence Weber (not a Packard) who fought in a gunboat to stop Confederate blockade runners. Furthermore, Reverend E. N. Packard (Edward Newman Packard  of in Dorchester, MA), my great-great-great uncle, and Adelpus Spring Packard (my great-great-great-great uncle), a professor of Bowdoin College, both opposed slavery, while two Packards in Topeka, Kansas (Cyrus and Sarah Burrows) sheltered “runaway slaves” time and time again.

[4] Davis, Paul. “Buying and Selling Human Beings: Newport and the Slave Trade,” Providence Journal, Sept. 2006, accessed July 12, 2021. Jay Coughty, as noted in the Journal of the American Revolution, noted that there were “no slave voyages departing from a Rhode Island port after December 1, 1774 and before 1784.”

[5] Voyage 36601, General Greene (1794) via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; “Packard, Sam” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Jay Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade, 1700-1807 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 266; Ship Registers and Enrollments of Providence, Rhode Island, 1773-1939, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (Providence, RI: The National Archives Project, 1941), 390-391. See page 240 of The Notorious Triangle for the guide to the chart. I was unable to find an online copy of The Dutch in the Caribbean and the Guianas by Cornelis Goslinga, but I did find, with some searching, the Zachary Macaulay papers, 1793-1888, with possibly something here.

[6] Streissguth, Tom (2009). Suriname in Pictures. Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-1-57505-964-8; C.R. Boxer (1990). The Dutch Seaborne Empire. Penguin. pp. 271–272. ISBN 9780140136180; Thompson, Alvin O. “Amerindian-European Relations in Dutch Guyana” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 26; Greenwood, Richard. “Zachariah Allen and the Architecture of Paternalism,” Rhode Island History, Vol. 46, No. 4, November 1988, p. 118.

[7] “Ships of Bondage and the Fight for Freedom,” Center for the Study of Slave & Justice,Brown University, accessed July 12, 2021.

[8] Gazette of the United States and daily evening advertiser. [volume], September 05, 1794, Image 3, accessed July 14, 2021.

[9] Voyage 36612, General Greene (1795) via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; “Packard, Samuel” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 267.

[10] Stewart, Robert, “A Heritage Discovered: Blacks in Rhode Island,” Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, 1976, p. 20. Also see here.

[11] White Jr., George Wylie. “A Rhode Islander Goes West to Indiana (1817-1818),” Rhode Island History, Vol I, No. 1, January 1942, p. 21-23. He owned the sloop Sally, schooners James, Enterprise, and Flying Fish, and Brigantines Betsey, Eliza, Louisa, and Dolphin. Ship registers indicate he was the owner of the Enterprise from 1794-1797, a schooner named the Federal from 1791-1792, the Betsey in 1800 with Nathaniel Packard, Jr. as captain, Eliza in 1803, Minerva in 1794, Juno in 1805, and Dolphin in 1792 (see Ship Registers and Enrollments, 136, 264, 297, 319, 348, 615, 745). Nathaniel Packard was recorded in 1777 to be captain of a privateer from Providence named the America.

[12] “Voyage 36628, Ann (1796)” via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; “Packard, Sam” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 268; “Packard, Sam” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021.

[13] Ship Registers and Enrollments, 72.

[14] Knight, Franklin. “The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture, 1763-1838,” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 75-78; Williams, Eric. “Capitalism and Slavery” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 125.

[15] Ward, J.R. “The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture, 1763-1838,” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 85-87; Sheridan, Richard D. “Morality and the Medical Treatment of Slaves in the British West Indies” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 198.

[16] Voyage 36658, James (1796) via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 270; Packard, Samuel” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Donnan, Elizabeth, ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to the America, vol. IV (Washington, DC, 1934), 633; Ship Registers and Enrollments, 545. I was not able to find a digital version of James A. McMillin’s The Final Victims: The Foreign Slave Trade to North America, 1783-1810 or the edition of the Georgia Gazette in 1796 on the Georgia Historical Newspapers site.

[17] Robert A. Geake, “The Age of Ships and Their Masters” within A History of the Providence River: With the Moshassuck, Woonasquatucket & Seekonk Tributaries (Arcadia Publishing, 2013), 39; Jay Coughtry and Martin Paul Schipper, Papers of the American Slave Trade (University Publications of America, 1996), vi.

[18] Lemons, J. Stanley, “Rhode Island and the Slave Trade,” Rhode Island History Vol. 60, No. 4, Fall 2002, 98-100.  Reprinted on the Gaspee Virtual Archives website. Jay Coughtry even says that the “American slave trade from 1727 to 1807 might be better called the Rhode Island slave trade” because merchants from Rhode Island “controlled between 60 and 90 percent of American trade in African slaves.” The same year this law passed, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded in Britain by Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson, as noted by Reuters.

[19] The full name was “The Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, for the Relief of Persons Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and for Improving the condition of the African Race.”

[20] Davis, Paul. “Brown vs. Brown: Brothers go head to head,” Providence Journal, Sept. 2006, accessed July 12, 2021; Coughtry, Jay, “Introduction” within Papers of the American Slave Trade, Series A: Selections from the Rhode Island Historical Society, Part 1: Brown Family Collections (Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 1998), v-vi; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 213214. Coughtry cites the Bristol Rhode Island Papers (presumably the Bristol Town Records Collection not Records of the U.S. Custom House, Bristol-Warren, Rhode Island), the Moses Brown Papers, specifically the Old volume IX: Correspondence, 1796-1799, no. 20, 29, 31, 43, 44, with letters between Moses and John Brown on March 15, 1797, July 29, 1797, and July 31, 1797, and one between William Roch, Jr. and Moses Brown on March 21, 1797 as a source for the petition which implicated Samuel and Cyprian, and other matters.

[21] “Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Brown University” within Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, 2006, updated in 2020, accessed July 14, 2021; “Brown, John to Brown, Moses: November 17, 1797,” Brown University Library, Brown Digital Repository, accessed July 14, 2021.

[22] “Rhode Island Marriages, 1724-1916“, database, FamilySearch, 22 January 2020, Samuel Packard, 1789, p 345, image 569 of 690, within the section entitled “St. Paul’s Church–Marriages,”; of Vital record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, Vol 10, p. 345 within the section “St. Paul’s Church marriages”; M.R.N., “James Earl (1761 – 1796),” AMERICAN GALLERY – 18th Century, Aug. 12, 2014, accessed July 12, 2021; “James Earl: Portrait of Abigail Congdon Packard, ca. 1795,” RISD Museum, accessed July 12, 2021; Korr, Mary. “Dr. Throop exemplifies new RISD Museum show: Making It in America,” Rhode Island Medical Journal, Nov. 2013, p. 76; “United States Census, 1800,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 15 July 2021), Samuel Packard, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; citing p. 197, NARA microfilm publication M32, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 45; FHL microfilm 218,680; “United States Census, 1790,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 15 July 2021), Samuel Packard, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; citing p. 187, NARA microfilm publication M637, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 10; FHL microfilm 568,150.

[23] “Clipped From Weekly Raleigh Register,” Weekly Raleigh Register, Raleigh, North Carolina, 30 Apr 1804, Page 3;Fraud on Underwriters,”  The Evening Post, New York, New York, 13 Apr 1804, p. 3; Jones, George Farquar, Family Record of the Jones Family of Milford, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island: With Its Connections and Descendants, Together with the Ancestry and Family of Lorania Carrington Jones, Wife of George F. Jones (George Farquar Jones: Philadelphia, 1884), 43; John Marshall Varnum, A Sketch of the Life and Public Services of Joseph Bradley Varnum of Massachusetts (US: David Clapp & Son, 1906), 19; “A Voyage from Providence to Alexandria, VA. in 1788,” Book Notes, Vol. 5, no. 17, Aug. 18, 1888, 117. Also, in 1785, some “dogs were accompanied from France to New York by young John Quincy Adams and were shipped from New York to Mount Vernon in Capt. S. Packard’s sloop Dove,” according to letters in August (also see here) and September 1785.

[24] P and S sections of “Owners and Occupants of the Lots, Houses and Shops in the Town of Providence Rhode Island in 1798,” RIGenWeb Project, accessed July 14, 2021, transcribed by Henry R. Chace’s book of the same name. Also see this comparison of residents in 1759 and 1798.

[25] The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, otherwise known as the Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking, in article 3(a) as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” I’m not the first person to note this, as Karen Bravo in Open Democracy compared transatlantic slavery and contemporary human trafficking, as has Stevie J. Swanson in the Florida A & M University Law Review, UN Office on Drugs & Crime, UN Secretary General in 2008. Some, however, have rejected the comparison between the two, saying they are distinct, with Emily Smith, Curator of Contemporary Forms of Slavery, International Slavery Museum, writing that “the transporting of African people to be enslaved reflects similarities with human trafficking seen today, particularly when borders are crossed. The act of shipping African people, through means of abduction and force, for the purpose of exploitation was seen in the transatlantic slave trade. In cases of cross-border human trafficking, some harrowing similarities exist between transatlantic and modern slavery…This isolation and control the trafficker or slave master then has over the person can keep someone trapped in slavery…The crossing of borders seen in many cases of human trafficking can also highlight a key difference between the transatlantic slave trade and modern slavery, particularly when we consider the developments in technology…Now, traffickers often recruit people through fraudulent job promises and can deceive people to travel willingly and legally across borders, then exploitation starts upon arrival or during the journey. In this way, human trafficking can be different to that seen in the transatlantic slave trade as the traffickers do not always need to travel with their victim, to exploit them in another country or continent…Another difference between transatlantic and modern slavery is related to profitability and disposability. In the transatlantic slave trade, the focus of slave traders was on Africa and the high cost of transporting these people meant that once they were enslaved they were often maintained and reproduced. Today, trafficking and enslaving adults and children is deemed a low cost and high profit crime…While slavery may have emerged or adapted to exploit a wider range of adults and children, perpetrated through the aid of new technology and modes of transport, the exploitation, degradation, physical and psychological harms remain across time and space. Ultimately, both the transatlantic slave trade and modern slavery are crimes of human rights abuses and violations. Both are horrific, traumatic and outlawed, yet modern slavery remains on a significant scale.”

[26] “Accessions and Gifts: June 15, 1923 to March 14, 1924,” Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design, Vol. XII, April 1924, p. 19; Robert Grandchamp, Jane Lancaster, and Cynthia Ferguson, “Original Members of PMCA” within “Rhody Redlegs”: A History of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery and the 103d Field Artillery, Rhode Island Army National Guard, 1801-2010 (US: McFarland, 2011), 214.

[27] White Jr., “A Rhode Islander Goes West to Indiana (1817-1818),” 22-23; Cole, J. R. History of Washington and Kent Counties, Rhode Island (New York: W.W.Preston & Co., 1889), 392-393.

[28] Ancestry.com; Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932;
Probate and Town Council Records, Vol 9-13, 1756-1795; image 231, transcribed by Ben Costantino of the Rhode Island Manumissions Project. Also listed is Frances Congdon who had a Black girl “named Desire” and two older Black people, Tenny and Tom.

[29] “Part 1 of Packard’s statement” within The Washingtonian, Windsor, Vermont, 07 Oct 1811, page 3; “Part 2 of Packard’s statementwithin The Washingtonian, Windsor, Vermont, 07 Oct 1811, page 3.

[30] “United States Census, 1810,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 15 July 2021), Samuel Packard, West District, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; citing p. 69, NARA microfilm publication M252 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 58; FHL microfilm 281,232.

[31] Vital record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, Vol 10, page 382.

[32] “An Act to Prevent the Slave Trade and the Encourage the Abolition of Slavery,” October 31, 1787, pages 6-7 of 8, via Rhode Island State Archives Digital Archive page “Quaker petition for abolition of slave trade, June 1787.” The fine for violating the law is 100 pounds (and he violated it four times), while the fee for violating Slave Trade Act of 1794 was $2,000. The conversion of Rhode Island pounds to dollars was one pound to one dollar, according to information compiled here. This is assuming that the fines assessed would be equal to those set out in the law.

[33] Fikes also notes that “family history shapes who we and where we come from and what we have access to, today.” She also criticizes White historians for sitting on information and only releasing it when they are comfortable to do so.

E.P.W. Packard… and Susan B. Anthony?: A connection on paper

As you may remember (or not), back in January 2018, I first wrote about my ancestor, E.P.W. Packard, otherwise known as Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, a person who crusaded against mental asylums across the country, leading to the creation of “Packard Laws” to limit their use. I wrote about her again in June 2018, March 2019, March 2019, and August 2019, among other posts. I’d recommend reading all four of those posts. Anyway, I recently came across a page in the diaries of Susan B. Anthony, where she mentions Elizabeth! In a diary entry on May 28, 1870, she writes that she talked to Elizabeth, saying that “she has been in insane asylum for years, because of unbelief in Orthodoxy,” with her husband a minister. [1] Sadly, that’s it.

However, this connection is even more profound, as it means that Elizabeth had direct ties to the women’s rights movement, especially the struggle for suffrage for women, as Anthony has founded the National Woman Suffrage Association only one year prior in 1869. Does this mean that Elizabeth was on the front lines of that movement? Of that, I’m not sure, but it definitely gives another avenue for future research, to be sure.

It is interesting that in 1860, when Elizabeth was imprisoned, Anthony was visiting Lydia Mott, her friend, in Albony, New York, and later dedicated herself to helping a woman named Phoebe Phelps. We also know that E.P.W. seems to have distanced herself from the movement, as she was compelled to curry public opinion in order to convince male legislators to vote in her favor, moving forward her objectives, and felt closer to James Bradwell, who was a moderate, than Anthony, who was more “radical.” [2] She later had to rent out part of her house as a result of the Chicago Fire destroying a printing press which had her name plates for books.

Ultimately, E.P.W. did not follow what Elziabeth Cady Stanton and Anthony had done in the past: linking abuses in mental asylums to “laws disadvantaging women.” [3]


Notes

[1] Anthony, Susan B. Susan B. Anthony Papers: Daybook and Diaries, -1906; Diaries; 1870. 1870. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss11049.mss11049-001_00519_00682/?q=packard&sp=53.

[2]  Linda V. Carlisle, Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight (US: University of Illinois Press, Nov 15, 2010), ISBN 9780252090073, p. 159-161, 163.

[3] Kim E. Nielsen, Money, Marriage, and Madness: The Life of Anna Ott (US: University of Illinois Press, 2020), ISBN 9780252052026, p 89.

“Sister of the Packard men”: The unusual story of Alaska Packard Davidson

Portrait picture of Alaska, presumably in 1922, via Wikimedia, which posted this public domain image

Recently, in going through some documents made searchable and digitized by the Library of Congress, I came across one Alaska Packard Davidson, who is described on her Wikipedia page as “an American law enforcement officer who is best known for being the first female special agent in the FBI.” At age 54, she joined the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) in October 11, 1922 as a special investigator, with a starting salary of $7 a day, which went up to $11 a day when traveling, first working at the New York office (where she went for training), then at the Washington office. [1] Although the BOI, the FBI’s precursor, wanted to hire women for cases related to combating intersex sex trafficking, she was considered “refined” so she wasn’t put on such cases, meaning the BOI considered her of “limited use” in prosecuting such crimes, partially due to her limited schooling. [2] Instead, she was involved in a case against an agent who sold classified DOJ information to criminals, for example. [3] After the resignation of her former boss, William J. Burns, who was caught up in the Teapot Dome Scandal, she was forced out by J. Edgar Hoover, who had become the Bureau’s acting director in 1924. He asked her to resign after the special agent leading the Washington field office, E.R. Bohner, said he had “no particular work for a woman agent.” She resigned on June 10 of the same year, even though there was no indication her work was unsatisificatory. Before that point, she still was able to transmit information to the BOI on the Fourth International Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a women’s peace activist group, in May 1924, under the name of A.P.  Davidson, informing the agency, including Hoover, about their activities, because they claimed that Jane Addams was committing “treason” (a lie). [4] Following her, and with the resignation of other agents in the 1920s (Jessie B. Duckstein and Lenore Houston), the BOI, then FBI, had no female agents for 43 years, between 1929 and 1972! There is more to her life than her brief stint in the BOI, crossing some ethical boundaries by spying on WILPF by telling the BOI about its activities. Despite this, the agency still celebrates (also see here) her, despite the problematic history, as I just described, and role of Hoover in her ouster from the BOI.

Here’s what we do know. Alaska “Al”, likely named after the then-territory of the same name, was born in Ohio, on March 1, 1868 to Warren Packard and Mary Elizabeth,  with her two brothers, James Ward and William Doud, who both founded the Packard auto company. She was first listed in the 1870 census as a 2-year-old girl, with James and William in the house, as was her 1-year-old sister Carlotta, and the household headed by Warren, a hardware merchant, and his wife, Mary. [5] In 1880, she was living with her parents, siblings (William, James, and Carlotta) in Chautauqua, New York. Why she was there has not been determined at this time. She had another sister, named Cornelia Olive.

Via “Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958”, database, FamilySearch, 25 March 2020, Alaska Packard in entry for Ephraim B. McCrum, 1893, Marriage Record Vol. 10: 1890-1895, Trumbell County, Ohio page 348, image number 214 of 638. This was also confirmed by a 1897 newspaper clipping which called her “Mrs. E. B. McCrum.”

Al had been in public school for three years and did not have a college, or university education. Cindee Mines notes on the Trumbell County Historical Society (TCHS) website that she grew up as the daughter of a wealthy territory, living in a huge mansion “on High Street at Mahoning Avenue in the mid 1870’s,” and that while there is no evidence she had any higher education, she was a “well-known equestrian, winning awards at county fairs in her teenage years,” even put in charge of the “New York and Ohio plant” for Packard Electric in 1890. Beyond that, she married two times. In 1893, she married a man named Ephraim Banks McCrum Jr.,  a close friend of her father, in Trumbell County, Ohio, as shown above. She had a daughter named Esther in 1894. [6] In 1900, the federal census showed her as married and with one child, while also confirming she had been married for seven years. [7] By then, however, she had, according to the aforementioned TCHS biography, had divorced Ephraim, with Esther living in a Columbus hospital known as the “Institution for Feeble-Minded Youth”. The same census showed her living with her widowed mother, Mary, brothers W.D. and William, and sisters, Carlotta and Cornelia. Esther sadly died in 1902 at the age of 8, of pneumonia, although TCHS said it was tuberculosis. [8]

At some point before 1910, she married a man named James B. Davidson, who was well-known to the Packard family. She is shown in the 1910 census as his wife, living in O’Hara Township, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, with two boarders: a 32-year-old man named Fred Osterley and an 18-year-old woman named Jessie Osterley. [9] A land record the previous year noted Al and James Ward Packard owning a tract of land named Lakewood in Chautauqua, New York. [10] The THCS biography says she purchased over 100 acres in Accotink, Virginia, which is near Mount Vernon, an unincorporated area in Fairfax County, living there with horses and a dog.

By 1920, she was living in Mount Vernon, Fairfax, Virginia, with James and a 16-year-old servant, from Maryland, named James Cot. [11]  In 1925 she joined a petition to the New York Supreme Court for an appraisal transfer tax. Then came the letters between herself and Carrie Chapman Catt in 1927. On May 26, Carrie told her about a story from Harriet Taylor Upton about a story, assuming it was a man who came to her with a list of suffragettes compiled by the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), thanks to information from Ms. Mary Kilberth (a leading anti-suffragist) and Robert Eichelberger, the husband of famed suffragist Bessie R. Lucas Eichelberger. She says the list is from the Secret Service, but I think she means the BOI. She then said that she was writing an open letter to the D.A.R., because the first individual was part of it, saying that this material is fodder to anti-suffragists. She then added:

In view of the fact that you no longer are connected with the Department [The Bureau of Investigation], I think you might allow me to make this statement. In the event the government should make inquiry, which it is not likely to do, as to who this person was and I was driven in a corner, I might have to give your name. I do not think you would need to apologize and I believe that your name would not be asked for. I would certainly not give it unless I was driven to it and, indeed, I would agree not to give it until I had again consulted you, letting you know what the condition is under which the pressure has been made.

On May 30, Al responded, saying that she would be fine to use her name, forgetting most of the women on “Miss Kilbreth’s list” and said that Kilberth accused Catt “accused you of something…in connection with your South American trip and she couldn’t say enough against Mrs. Upton.” The final letter in this file is Carrie’s reply on June 25. She first apologizes for not acknowledging the letter more promptly, and said two people will be sent to her, stated her intention to write about this incident, and concluded by saying “it is a pity that the anti-suffragists are such poor sports that they cannot overcome their disapproval of us.” What I take from this whole exchange is that Al was a suffragist, which really isn’t much of a surprise, and that the BOI had compiled a list of suffragists, for who knows what end.

But that’s not the whole story. In a May 27, 1927 letter to Harriet Taylor Upton, she says the D.A.R. is lifting up an anti-suffragist member, and even noted that she pushed for more women to be appointed within the government, including Al herself. She proceeded to give a brief description of her, which gives details about her life:

When I went to Washington in the Republican [Party] Headquarters, I tried not to get places for anybody in government. I did a great deal towards the appointment of women to key positions, but not regular government positions. I made one exception and that was the daughter of a citizen of Warren whom I had known for years. She is the sister of the Packard men who made the Packard machine. She had married rather unfortunately and was living in a little town down in Virginia. She had experience in office work, is splendid at managing people and I asked Harry Daughterty, the Attorney General, if he could find a place for her. She expected just a small place of a thousand dollars or so, and would drive back and forth from her plantation, which is  a part of the Washington estate. We were surprised to have him appoint her to the Secret Service Commission [BOI?] and she worked under [William J.] Burns, the great secret service man. She got $2300.00 a year salary and she did a corking [splendid] job. It was just the kind of a job she could do. They finally took in another woman who proved to be a discredit to women and to the department and everything else. Now in the beginning when Mrs. Davidson began her work in this department, she would come to me asking about the loyalty of this person and that person and in the course of the time she was there, I learned that Miss Kilbreth of the Patriot was stuffing the Attorney General’s office with all of the lies possible. Now one day Mrs. Davidson came in with a list of names and among them were our people. I have forgotten now just who was on the list, but it was our own folks and they were just about as much traitors to the government as we are now. I therefore told Mrs. Davidson that that whole thing was just made up, and she said she had about concluded that this was true for she has always been devoted to me, and Miss Kilbreth told her awful things about me. She thought if things were no truer about other people than they were about me, there was nothing to it. I had forgotten that I ever reported this to you. I had forgotten that she threw the list in the waste basket. Of course I did not write that it was a woman who gave me the information, because I did not want anyone to know then that the secret service through personal friendship were consulting me. And you must have taken it that it was a man because all people employed were men…I do not know whether Mrs. Davidson would have any objection to your using her name or saying that it was a woman from the Attorney General’s office or not. If you want me to I can write to her, or if you want to you can write direct to her, telling her what you want it for. She is out of the thing entirely now and never will get back because Mr. Daugherty is no longer there and because I am no longer there. Her address is Mrs. James Davidson, Acotink, Va.

Carrie then goes onto say that she might sever her membership with the D.A.R. I would like to know if the D.A.R. was filled with suffragists at the time, or if Carrie was boasting. After all, Susan B. Anthony, Emily Parmely Collins, Carrie Chase Davis, and Alice Paul were recorded as members of the D.A.R. Al also showed good judgment by throwing away the list of suffragists in the waste basket. Someone needs to make a film or animation of this. It would be great! There are other Packards mentioned in the papers, like a “Mrs. Packard” in Springfield, Massachusetts who is the vice-chairman for a “Mrs. Ben Hooper.” [14] Also, considering that Carrie was, at the time, in a relationship with Mary “Molly” Garrett Hay, after her second husband, George Catt died in 1905, is it possible she was attracted to Al? Is that why she said that Al “married rather unfortunately”? I mean, I don’t think we can rule that out, although this could also be a stretch too far, as she may have been saying that Al’s marriage with James was an unhealthy one. In any case, Al was still married to James at the time, so such a relationship would have been unlikely. Even so, it appears that Carrie recommended Al for the job, at least if this letter is to be believed.

Al Packard as a teen, via the Classic Cars Journal

Three years later, in 1930, Al was widowed and still living in Mount Vernon, at a house worth about $4,000. [15] And yes, she lived alone, had a radio and no occupation listed, which is not a shock for someone 62 years old. Although she was alone, we don’t know whether she had close friends or family members which kept her company, although it is possible. She was described as widowed because James had died in May 1929. According to the TCHS biography, she continued living on the farm until her death.

She died four years later, on July 16, 1934, in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 66 of various causes. [16] She lived on in many realms. She was mentioned in the episode “Waxing Gibbous” of the eighth season of Archer, a mature animation, which was described by The A.V. Club as an obscure reference, and praised by Vulture. In chapter two of Gloria H. Giroux’s Crucifixion Thorn: Volume Two of the Arizona Trilogy, a character is inspired by Al, while others chattered on Twitter about renaming the FBI building after her,  As some of her ancestors put it, she lived an “unusual life.” She definitely did, without a doubt! There are many avenues and chances to branch out with this article, for someone who is my sixth cousin three times removed, to other topics and I hope you all enjoyed this post.


Notes

[1] Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9780897749916; Mullenbach, Cheryl (2016). Women in Blue: 16 Brave Officers, Forensics Experts, Police Chiefs, and More. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613734254; Vines, Lynn. “The First Female Agents,” The Investigator, p 77-78

[2] Delgado, Miguel A. (February 4, 2017). “Alaska Packard, la primera agente del FBI despedida por ser mujer”. El Español (in Spanish). Retrieved January 16, 2021; Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9780897749916.

[3] Mullenbach, Cheryl (2016). Women in Blue: 16 Brave Officers, Forensics Experts, Police Chiefs, and More. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613734254. Her testimony before a House select committee in that case in May 1924 is shown on pages 2492 to 2495 of [Investigation of Hon. Henry Daughtery Formerly Attorney General of the United States] Hearings Before the Select Committee on the Investigation of the Attorney General, United States Congress, Senate Sixty-Eighth Congress First Session Persuant to S. Res 157 Directing a Committee to Investigate the Failure of the Attorney General to Prosecute or Defend Certain Criminal and Civil Actions Wherein the Government is Interested: May 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, and 22, 1924 [Part 9] (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1924).

[4] Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” File 237, May 7, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 1 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 2-9; Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” File 4237, May 5, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 3 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 18-25; Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” May 5, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 3 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 26-39; Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” May 5, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 3 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 40-46, continued in “Jane Addams Part 4 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, pages 1-6. Parts of her report may also be on pages 1-29 of “Jane Addams Part 2 of 4.” Her reports didn’t matter, as Meredith Dovan wrote, on page 18 of her thesis, “FBI Investigations into the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left” that “Hoover fired both women [Alaska and Jessie B. Duckstein] during a round of cuts after he became acting director of the FBI in May 1924.”

[5] “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch, James W Packard in household of Warren Packard, Ohio, United States; citing p. 21, family 5, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,771; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020, Alaska Packard in household of Warren Packard, Chautauqua, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 39, sheet 30B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,815.

[6] “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003“, database with images, FamilySearch, 1 January 2021), Alacha Packard in entry for Esther McCrum, Birth registers 1883-1896 vol 3., page 184, image 183 of 289.

[7] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, William Packard in household of Mary Packard, Warren Township Warren city Ward 1, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 120, sheet 13A, family 297, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,325.

[8] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch, 14 December 2020, Alaska P. Mc Crum in entry for Esther Mc Crum, 20 Apr 1902; citing Death, Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, United States, source ID v 3 p 240, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 2,026,910.

[9] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 16 January 2021, Alaska Davidson in household of James B Davidson, O’Hara Township, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 185, sheet 10A, family 212, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1296; FHL microfilm 1,375,309.

[10] “United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975“, database with images, FamilySearch, 27 December 2020, Alaska P Davidson in entry for James Ward Packard, 1910, Grantees 1902-1910 vol A-Z, image 564 of 811, page 592. The liber is noted as 388 and the page as 477, but this volume appears to not be digitized as of yet.

[11] “United States Census, 1920“, database with images, FamilySearch,  accessed 4 January 2021, Alaska Davidson in household of J B Davidson, Mount Vernon, Fairfax, Virginia, United States, citing enumeration district (ED) ED 36, sheet 7B, family 130, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1886; FHL microfilm 1,821,886.

[12] Catt, Carrie Chapman. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Davidson, Alaska P. – 1947, 1890. Manuscript/Mixed Material, pages 1-3, Letters on May 26, 1927, May 30, 1927, and June 25, 1927.

[13] Catt, Carrie Chapman. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Upton, Harriet Taylor. – 1947, 1890. Manuscript/Mixed Material, pages 3-4.

[14] Catt, Carrie Chapman. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Hooper, Mrs. Ben; 1927 to 1929. – 1929, 1927. Manuscript/Mixed Material, pages 18, 21, and 24.

[15] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 16 January 2021, Alaska P Davidson, Mount Vemon, Fairfax, Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 18, sheet 18B, line 53, family 404, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2442; FHL microfilm 2,342,176.

[16] “Virginia, Death Certificates, 1912-1987,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 August 2019), Alaska Packard Davidson, 16 Jul 1934; from “Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850,” database and images, Ancestry, 2012; citing Alexandria, , Virginia, United States, entry #15826, Virginia Department of Health, Richmond.

Blood, sweat, and tears of the Irish: The story of Mary, Ellen, and Bridget

1860 census document that lists the three Irish servants in the Packard household

Last week I wrote about John H. Packard, beginning with a letter by a Union soldier and ending with a discussion of how he was a renowed surgeon, at a time that the use of “pathological anatomy remained remote from most areas of practical medicine” and the reform of the medical field had not happened yet (it would occur after the Civil War). He had a personal estate worth $5,000. That has an inflated worth, according to Measuring Worth, of about $161,400 today, putting him in the top 10% (or even higher) today, if we use calculations from CNN Money. Like anyone in a respected profession such as his, he got there by standing on the backs of others. What he did would have been impossible without the labor of others. This is made clear in the 1860 census for Philadelphia’s Eighth Ward, which lists, as I noted in that article, three Irish servants. [1] They are Mary Hassan, a 47-year-old woman, Ellen McBride, a 25-year-old woman, and Bridget Welsh, a 22-year-old woman. They are called “domestics.” As people’s historian Howard Zinn wrote in A People’s History of the United States, they came at a time that immigrants from Ireland were “fleeing starvation there when the potato crop failed,” coming to the United States, packed into “old sailing ships.”

Before getting into the specific histories of Mary, Ellen, and Bridget, I’d like to give some historical context beyond what Zinn has pointed out. Immigrant  women who came from Europe often became domestic servants, sometimes in a state of debt peonage, especially Irish women because they often spoke English. They were paid with low wages, with many families hiring them, with the weathiest hiring ten or more at a time, with these servants cleaning houses, caring for children, cooking meals, and other tasks deemed “domestic.” Many would begin a 4-7 year labor term, and if they fled they would be tracked down, or could even be sexually assaulted. As historian Andrew Turban points out, [2] before 1920, the majority of the servants in Boston, Philly, and New York City was comprised of Irish women, who were replaced by Black women from the South beginning in 1920, when the Great Migration picked up. Unmarried Irish women especially served as a “crucial economic lifeline for family members who remained in Ireland.” One travel writer, writing in 1864, observed that “vast numbers of Irish girls had found employment as servants in families.” [3]

These Irish women were among the “hundreds of thousands of indentured servants” who traveled to North America from the 1600s to the 1800s, one of the many waves of migration to the content. While labor from enslaved African laborers took the place of indentured servants in West Indian colonies controlled by the British by the 19th century, indentured servitude was still an important institution in the Atlantic World itself. [4] Some have even argued that without domestic servants it would have “been impossible to run a 19th century urban home” while the Library of Congress notes that many Irish women became domestic workers or servants, while Irish men labored in coal mines or built canals (like John Mills, maybe?) and railroads. In terms of Philly itself, in 1857, three years before the 1860 census which listed Mary, Ellen, and Bridget, Irish immigrants were integrated into the city itself and became “proof of the American promise that hard work, skill, and persistence could ultimately lead to remarkable achievement.” In Philly, many of these servants lived in overcrowded rowhouses, with the words servant and Irish becoming synonymous almost, and were often demeaned by the wealthy families they worked for.

Even so, as should be clearly stated, indentured servitude was NOT the same as enslavement, which some members of the Packard family were involved in, as I’ve noted in past posts on this blog. Originally, indentured servitude came out of a “need for cheap labor” but landowners soon turned to enslaved Africans as the cost of indentured servants increased. As the Institute of Black World describes it, that while they are both forms of chattel bondage, “indentured servants expected to be in bondage for a set number of years, and then freed.” As others pointed out, indentured servitude was not lifelong or hereditary like enslavement of Black people, with White servants having legal rights and were not considered property. As such, there were not “White slaves” as Liam Hogan rightly argues on the topic. It is a myth that some have bought into to benefit their ideological aims, especially reactionary groups in the United States, and others who should know better. Furthermore, as Rebecca Gatz points out, many domestic servants in Philly in 1800 were “immigrants who were sold into servitude on their arrival” in order to pay for their passage, although many became  servants “usually for a term of four years.” These servants were a “permanent feature of middle class families in 19th century America,” often single Irish women, who had a “favorable bargaining position,” as noted by historian Laura D. Kelley. Some were able to get concessions like the ability to practice their Catholic faith and since room and board were provided, these servants often sent money back to their families in Ireland, and maintained their “own financial security with remarkable success,” gaining wages, having safe living conditions, and food to eat. Even so, they were still exploited by those they worked for, in terms of their labor and skills, although they received higher wages, along with other benefits, than those who worked in factories at the time. In Pennsylvania, in 1860, female servants received montly wages of $7.88, coming to a total of $94.56 per year, with servants in New York and New Jersey paid slightly more per month, $8.33 and $9.55 respectfully. [5] This compared to laborers who had a wage of $5.88 an hour or machinists who had a wage of $9.48 an hour the same year. According to Measuring Worth, the amount earned by servants in one year ($94.56) would have an inflated worth of $3,053.01 and a relative income worth of $22,929.23, at the low end, and $43,527.76 at the high end.

With that, let me move back to Mary, Ellen, and Bridget. We know, from the federal census, that they were living, in 1860, in the Eighth Ward of Philly. According to The Library Company of Philadelphia’s Philadelphia on Stone project, the Eighth Ward, after the consolidation of Philly in 1854, was “between Schuylkill River and Seventh, Spruce, and Chestnut streets.” Using a map from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Map Collection, in 1865, we find a map of the whole ward. Its amazing, I’d say. While the Philly Department of Records has a map of the city’s wards in 1854, it is an inaccessible image which is small and cannot be examined in detail, sadly.

Sadly, the map is blurry, so zooming in did not help and neither did some other maps of the ward (including this one) unfortunate to say.

They were, from my research, living in a building on 1924 Spruce Street, where John H. Packard lived until the early 1900s. [6] While those records point to residence there in the later 19th century, it appears he lived there before, because the Daily Evening Bulletin posted a message in April 1864 where he listed his office as 1225 Spruce Street as a Medical Examiner. [7] This is supported by papers with similar notices the same year. While I know that the “Packard Residence” of one John H. Packard in Chestnut Hill is not him, as that is in the wrong part of Philly, I did find an image of the dwelling as it looked in 1896, according to The Athenaeum of Philadelphia:

Using the PhilGeoHistory Maps Viewer I was able to find more about where they were living. This resource showed me that the house was near a paper factory, down the street from a lumber yard and church,  and over 17 blocks (eastward) from what I believe is the hospital. Packard himself was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, as an appeal in June 1871 indicates, where he, and others, advocated for money to build a new hospital near the university.

The black dot indicates where the house was located

Now that we know where they lived, what about the lives of Mary, Ellen, and Bridget specifically? Unlike in England where there was a servant hierarchy, these three women were domestic servants who helped around the house. Taking the assumption that all three women stayed in Philly before and after 1850, that eliminates many false drops I uncovered in searches through digitized records on FamilySearch. [8]

With Mary, it was tough as the name “Mary Hassen” is a somewhat common, leading to issues like having two Mary Hassens in Philly’s Seventh Ward in 1870. [9] One is living on the north side of Lombard Street, [10] and the other on the south side of Naudain Street. [11] Of these two individuals, both are equally likely. Lombard Street is only a mile away (or seven blocks southward, after traveling one block westward) from 1924 Spruce Street. Naudain Street is less than half-a-mile away, which translates to only eight blocks southward, after traveling one block westward. Whichever one of those is the Mary who was a servant of the Packard family in 1860, is clear she stayed in the same area of Philly. The 1880 census makes this clear, listing a person who is mostly likely her. [12] Operating with that assumption, in this census, she is noted as “keeping house,” referring to “domestic” work within a household, with another family, possibly meaning that she is still a servant. She would be living at 1224 Haines Street, which was over 23 miles north from the Spruce Street residence where she had lived in 1860, joined by various boarders from Ireland: 35-year-old James Brown, 50-year-old J. McIntyre, 50-year-old Ellen McIntyre (wife of J.), and 40-year-old Andrew Lacy (and his two children, 38-year-old James and 8-year-old Mary), to name a few. A 48-year-old woman named Ellen Hassett was the head of the household, living there along with her two daughters (Mary and Sarah), and three sons (George, John, and Charles). There is also a death record of a “Mary Hasson” in 1900 but I think it would be too presumptive to say that it is her.

While it is hard to extrapolate details of Mary Hassen’s life from the federal census documents, it is more possible to do so for Ellen McBride. In 1870 she was still living in the Eighth Ward of Philly. She was a domestic servant for the family headed by 57-year-old man named Alfred Stillé, a Doctor of Medicine whose real estate was worth $45,000 and personal estate worth $55,000. In the same household were three other domestic servants from Ireland: 45-year-old man named James Cole, 50-year-old woman named Sarah Cole (wife of James), and a 30-year-old woman named Rose McBride. [13] Considering that Rose has the same surname as Ellen, it is possible that Rose is her sister. The same page of the census lists families led by stockbrokers (John W. Freed), Doctors of Medicine (Addinell Hewson), a presumed widow (Mary V. Vertz), and another doctor (John Ross) as their neighbors. Also in the household was Alfred’s 55-year-old wife, Caroline C., and their 20-year-old son, Louis, a student of medicine. If you add his real estate and personal estate together, it would come to a total of $100,000, which is an inflated worth of over $2.1 million, as of today, according to Measuring Worth! [14] As such, he would, using a Forbes calculator in October 2019, be in the top 6.67% in today’s standards.

They were living at a house numbered 920, possibly on Spruce Street. I say Spruce Street because Stillé’s obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1900 says that he died at 3900 Spruce Street. The same obituary calls him a “venerable professor of theory and practice of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania” and says that his wife was Katherine A. Blakiston, who he married in 1899, meaning that Katherine was his second wife. The obituary claims that Caroline, who is listed in the census was “insane” even when he remained devoted to her, and that she died six weeks before he married Katherine, with obtiary claiming that “only death released him from the burden he had borne for years.” The obituary goes on to call him “one of the most honored names in the role of America’s medical and scientific leaders.” Philadelphia newspapers also noted that he published a book on medical law in 1860, was on the Sanitary Commission in the city in 1862, and did medical lectures at the Philadelphia Hospital in 1866. [15] Clearly, he was a prominent fellow in Philly. The fact that he had servants, like Ellen, means that he could only do what he did because of the labor of others. This is an important fact to point out, because biographies of him from the American Medical Association, in William Osler’s American Medical Biographies, or University of Pennsylvania do not mention it. These biographies, however, do say that his wife, Caroline Christiana Barnett, had mental illness and was in an asylum for FIFTY YEARS! Writing a post on her is a subject for another day. Anyway, it is sad that we know more about Stillé than the servants in his household, like Ellen McBride. There are five Ellen McBrides in Philadelphia in 1880, but I don’t believe that any of them are the same as the Ellen I have described in this article. We do know, however, that Rose remained a domestic servant, as she is listed in that role in the 1880 census in a household headed by Richard Zeckwer, a German-born music teacher, with him, his family, and others at 154 Pine Street, but Ellen is not with her. [16] Zeckwer was a prominent man in the city’s coeity, as he started the Philadelphia Music Academy with three other musicians in 1870 and was director of this same academy from 1876 to 1917, which was located on Spruce Street. The mystery deepens and I’m not sure where to look next in order to piece together her life a little more. If you wish to continue the search, go here. I would welcome your discoveries on that front. There are other Rose McBrides I found in my searches, but I can’t sure if any of them are her.

We finally get to Bridget Welsh. She likely immigrated in 1857 as person of that name is listed on Philly passenger lists for that year. [17] Discarding the tavern keeper with her name in Philly in 1880, she would have been the servant in the household of Annie E. Massey in Philly the same year. [18] This record shows her as living in a three-person household, with the only person other than Annie in the house being Annie’s sister, a 75-year-old widowed woman named Letita Cresson. All three of them lived at an abode at 50 Arch Street, which is about two miles away from 1924 Spruce Street, as shown in a Google Maps calculation of the distance between both locations. We find her again in 1900, living in the 27th Ward of Philly, still as a servant, and in a family headed by Emile Camille Geyelin, a French-born hydraulics engineer, who is married to Estella Antoinette, adopted daughter of J. Richter Jones. [19] In the household are three other servants: a 61-year-old Irish woman named Lizzie Walsh, a 40-year-old French woman named Louisa Maire, and a 50-year-old English woman named Emma Fellows. It is not known if Elizabeth “Lizzie” Walsh is related to Bridget or that it is a coincidence that both have the same last name. An image of the census is shown below.

They were living on 4227 Chestnut Street, with this street described as a “major historic street” in Philly by Wikipedia as it runs east-west from the waterfront on the Delaware River, through he center of the city, through West Philly, and then crosses the Schuylkill River, and onward from there. This was, reportedly, not far from the Fairmount Waterworks where “one of his turbines was installed.” Although I couldn’t find anything on Annie E. Massey, I did find that her sister died in 1888, and that Geyelin was an acclaimed engineer who installed water turbines in many cities to improve their water systems, while his great-grandson was Philip Laussat Geyelin, editor of the Washington Post. Like with Stillé, not one of the biographies, whether in Fire Engineering, his obituary in 1900, Volume 18 of Engineers and Engineering, or letters by descendants, ever mentioned that Irish servants in the household he led. This is not a surprise, to be honest, and it makes articles like this one all the more important, to uncover realities which are not acknowledged.

This article has shown that three men (John H. Packard, Alfred Stillé, Emile Camille Geyelin) and two women (Ellen Hassett and Annie E. Massey) in Philly benefited from the labor of Irish women who were deemed “domestics.” Again, what they did in their lives would have not been possible without the work of these women. And that should be acknowledged. Of course, my research here is likely only scratching the surface. With that, I’d like to hear your suggestions about what resources and records I should look at next, as I’d like to expand this story into something broader.


Notes

[1]  “United States Census, 1860“, database with images, FamilySearch, 11 November 2020, John H Packard, 1860; page 6, household ID 27, NARA M653, affiliate film number 1158, GS film number 805158, digital folder number 005171158, image number 10, indexing project batch number N01813-6, record number 218.

[2] Andrew Urban (August 2009), “Irish Domestic Servants, ‘Biddy’ and Rebellion in the American Home, 1850–1900,” Gender & History, 21(2):  264; accessed January 3, 2021.

[3] Thomas Low Nichols. Forty Years of American Life (London,1864), 71; quoted on “The Irish Girl and the American Letter: Irish immigrants in 19th Century America” page.

[4] Reuters Staff, “Fact check: First slaves in North American colonies were not “100 white children from Ireland”,” Reuters, June 17, 2020, accessed January 3, 2021; Michael Guasco, “Indentured Servitude,” Oxford Bibliographies, December 11, 2015, accessed January 3, 2021.

[5] Edward Young, “Special report on immigration…in the year 1869-’70 /,” Government Publication Office, 1871, p. 216.

[6] “1924-26 Spruce Philadelphia, PA 19103,” Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., Accessed January 3, 2021. This is also asserted on Redfin. The listing describes the house as “a remarkable and rare Italian Renaissance Mansion housing 12 residential apartments in the heart of the Rittenhouse neighborhood,” saying it was “built in the late 1800’s at a time when fashionable architects were employed by prominent residents making their mark on the city of Philadelphia. An early elevator residence, this magnificent building has been home to prominent Philadelphia families such as Dr. John Hooker Packard, one of the most prominent American surgeons of the late 19th century.” His residence there is asserted by the Journal of Sociologic Medicine, Vol. 2, p. 419 for 1889, page 1455 Boyd’s Philadelphia Combined City and Business Directory in 1895, Page 183 of the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s report on historic places in Philly calls it the “Earl. P. Putnam House.” His obituary transcribed on Find A Grave says he died at 1926 Spruce Street.

[7] “Have You Protected Your Family For Life?,” Daily Evening Bulletin, April 6, 1864, Philadelphia, Page 4, Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive, accessed January 3, 2021. Also see notices in the April 9, 1864 paper, April 14, 1864 paper, April 12, 1864 paper, April 16, 1864 paper, April 19, 1864 paper, April 26, 1864 paper, and April 28, 1864 paper.

[8] For instance, there is a “Mary Hassin” in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Northern Liberties Ward 2,  and another “Mary Hassen” in Moyamensing Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

[9] Specifically, a 50-year-old Mary Hassan and a 55-year-old Mary Hassan.

[10] “United States Census, 1870“, database with images, FamilySearch, 4 January 2021, Mary Hassen, 1870; line 12, NARA M593, GS Film Number 000552919, Digital Folder Number 004278862, image 514, indexing project (batch) number N01638-5, record number 20160.

[11] “United States Census, 1870“, database with images, FamilySearch, 4 January 2021), Mary Hassen, 1870; line 32, NARA M593, GS Film Number 000552919, Digital Folder Number 004278862, image 494, indexing project (batch) number N01638-5, record number 19380.

[12] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch,: 13 November 2020), Mary Hassen, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; citing enumeration district ED 121, sheet 94B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,170. Ellen Hasset and her family is mentioned on the previous page.

[14] “United States Census, 1870“, database with images, FamilySearch, Ellen McBride in entry for Alfred Stille, 1870; line 16, household 964, NARA M593, GS Film Number 000552892, Digital Folder Number 004278816, image 366, indexing project (batch) number N01635-8, record number 14485.

[14] There are other measurements, but I believe this one is the most accurate to use here in this article.

[15] “The Army Medical Department Bill,” The Press, Philadelphia, January 20, 1862, Page 2, accessed January 4, 2021; “New Law Books,” The Press, Philadelphia, October 13, 1860, Page 3, accessed January 4, 2021; “Our Medical Schools,” Daily Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia, February 6, 1866, Page 1, accessed January 4, 2021.

[16] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020, Rose Mc Bride in household of Richard Zeckwer, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America; citing enumeration district ED 133, sheet 264C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,170.

[17] “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists Index, 1800-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch, Bridget Welsh, 1857; citing ship Saranak, NARA microfilm publication M360 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 419,569. There’s also a person of that name which came to New York City in 1856, but I threw that one out of contention with the assumption that she stayed in Philly.

[18] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020), Bridget Welsh in household of Annie E. Massey, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America; citing enumeration district ED 162, sheet 94B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,171.

[19] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, 4 January 2021), Bridget Walsh in household of Emile Geyelin, Philadelphia city Ward 27, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 669, sheet 3B, family 75, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,469.

Was John H. Packard really one of the best surgeons in West Philly?

Warning: This article has a graphic description of medical injury. I know its brief, but I would rather put this notice here than not, just to let people know before they read this article in its entireity.  [1]

Recently, I was going through documents recently transcribed by Library of Congress volunteers. On one of the pages, a soldier writes to William Oland Bourns, a reformer, poet, editor, and clergyman who edited a periodical titled The Soldier’s Friend. He had a contest from 1865-1866, as noted by LOC, where soldiers and sailors of the Union Army who lost their “right arms by disability or amputation” during the war in the past five years were “invited to submit samples of their penmanship using their left hands.” Anyway, the soldier writes, on one of the pages of his August 1865 letter that he was, in late July 1862, taken by a steamer from Richmond to a West Philadelphia hospital where a man named John H. Packard cared for him. [2]

He called Packard “one of the best surgeons there,” with five pieces of his bone sawed out (yikes!), along with shattered bones removed. He was not discharged from the hospital until February 1863, at which time “Dr. Packard was very proud of the operation [and] he had my photograph taken showing the arm.” Its not every day where a surgeon takes a photograph of the patient they did surgery on. The soldier’s name is later revealed to be Martin V.B. Keller and he lived in Lancester County, Pennsylvania.

Now what about this Packard fellow? I found a man of the same description in the as listed as living in the eighth ward of Philadelphia. The 1870 census lists him as 30-year-old man living there with his wife Elizabeth, and children: 11-year-old Bessie, 10-year-old Charles, eight-year-old Frederick, five-year-old John, and one-year-old Francis. [3] The 1860 census is more substantial, [4] showing the same children and wife, but also three Irish servants 47-year-old Mary Hassan, 25-year-old Ellen McBride, and 22-year-old Bridget Welsh. More than this, it lists him as a physician!

The same is the case with a 1880 census, which calls him a physician too. [5] More than that, this record, on FamilySearch, linked to the page of a man named John Hooker Packard, who would be our man! Here is a screenshot of his profile:

Going through this profile, I found an 1850 census which shows that he is the son of Frederick Adolpus Packard, a president of something, the name of which I can’t make out, and Elizabeth Dwight Hooker. [6] They are living in the Spruce Ward of Philly at the time and he is listed as a doctor! Beyond this, we know from various passport applications he made in the late 1890s and early 1900s that he was born in August 15, 1832 in Pennsylvania, as he asserted over and over. [7] In those documents, he often called himself a physician. While in  1901, he calls himself a “private citizen” in the passport application, in another the following he called himself a physician. He would die of heart disease in May 1907 in Atlantic City, Atlantic County, New Jersey.

But that’s not all. According to FamilySearch, John Hooker Packard is my “4th cousin five times removed.” What does that mean? Well, his father, Frederick Adolphus Packard, was the son of Reverend Asa Packard. Asa, was, in turn, the son of Jacob Packard. Jacob, was the son of Solomon, and Solomon was the son of Zaccheus and Sarah, who I’ve written about on this blog before. This may be a bit confusing, as it was to me, so perhaps a chart of the connections would help a little more:

Before I finished doing research, I decided to do a general search for his name… and what came up? A 1863 book he wrote titled A Manual Of Minor Surgery (later adopted by the U.S. Army), which the Amazon description called a “scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint…[which is] culturally important.” Dr. Michael Echols  & Dr. Doug Arbittier called him one of the “most prominent American surgeons of the last part of the 19th Century and a pioneer of modern American surgery,” noting that he served as “acting assistant surgeon in two Union Army hospitals during the Civil War,” with the latter proving Martin V.B. Keller’s account as accurate. I was amazed to see an article in Anesthesiology journal in November 2001 on him by Ray J. Defalque, M.D.; Bernard Panning, M.D.; Amos J. Wright, M.L.S. In the article, they called him “an eminent Philadelphia surgeon” and how he switched from using chloroform to ether in 1864, contributing to use of anesthesia, while calling him “a pioneer of modern American surgery.” Even so, they noted that in 1896, a finger of his became infected during one of his surgeries, leading him to develop septicemia, causing him to retire, and he “died from cardiorenal failure in Atlantic City in 1907.” What I loved most of all about the article was not the content, but the fact that we got a photograph of him!

Some searches online find his writings in the digital collection of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress, SNAC, and Harvard Library. Onward! I’m planning to write another post in the future which explores the lives of the three Irish servants, but this article is just a starting point before I get to that article. The answer to the question at the beginning of this article is “possibly,” although I’m not sure anyone ever said he was the “best.”


Notes

[1] This is a content warning rather than a trigger warnings, which apply to “sexual violence, oppressive language, gunshots, and representations of self-harm,” along with other topics.

[2] Bourne, Wm. Oland. Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series I $1,000 in prizes, awarded in; Entries 211-220. 1866. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss13375.00404/?q=packard&sp=26

[3] “United States Census, 1870″, database with images, FamilySearch, 19 March 2020, John H Packard, 1870; line number 38, NARA M593, GS film number 000552920, digital folder number 004278863, image number 312, indexing project batch number N0163-6, record number 12037. Children are shown on next page.

[4]  “United States Census, 1860“, database with images, FamilySearch, 11 November 2020, John H Packard, 1860; page 6, household ID 27, NARA M653, affiliate film number 1158, GS film number 805158, digital folder number 005171158, image number 10, indexing project batch number N01813-6, record number 218.

[5] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020, John H. Packard, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America; citing enumeration district ED 129, sheet 206C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,170.

[6] “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch, 24 December 2020, John Packard in household of Fredrick Packard, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing family 746, line 47, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 444781.

[7] “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1893; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, record number 2675, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., 408, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1897; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, record number 5934, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., 491, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1901; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, source certificate #45202, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., Roll 583, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, : 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1902; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, source certificate #56681, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., Roll 600, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).