St. Louis Exchange—Inspection of Human Chattels—Artizan Slaves—Scenes and Proceedings of the Auction—Sale of the Men.
Finding that another slave-auction was to be held at noon next day in the St. Louis Exchange, I resolved to attend. The day was dull and dirty. “Please, sir,” said I to the first man I met, “to tell me where St. Louis Exchange is?” “Don’t know, sir.” I walked on a little further, and tried again. “Please to direct me to St. Louis Exchange?” “Can’t; but it’s somewhere in that direction,” pointing with his finger. “Is this the way to St. Louis Exchange?” I asked a third. “I guess it is,” was the curt and characteristic reply. “How far is it?” “Three blocks further on; then turn to your right; go a little way down, and you will find it on your left.” I went as directed, and came to an immense building—a kind of hotel. There were nearly a dozen entrances, all leading into one vast saloon, where I found about 200 gentlemen,—some drinking, some eating, some smoking, some reading, some talking, and all spitting. One end of the saloon was fitted up as a refreshment place, similar to those on railway stations in England. But I could see nothing like preparations for a sale.
On looking around I perceived a large door in two halves, with spring hinges, leading as it were further into the building. I pushed one half open, and found myself in a spacious circular hall,—its roof, ending in a dome, supported by a suitable number of massive columns. The floor was tastefully paved with black and white marble, and all the light came from the dome. Some 100 gentlemen were sauntering about, and now and then turning to several groupes of black people to ask them questions. This place was evidently fitted up for auctioneering purposes, and seemed peculiarly adapted for man-selling. At equal distances were a dozen elevated desks for the chief actors, each with a small platform in front for the exhibition of the articles of sale.