The Underground Railroad eBook

William Still
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,446 pages of information about The Underground Railroad.



Although the name of Henry Box Brown has been echoed over the land for a number of years, and the simple facts connected with his marvelous escape from slavery in a box published widely through the medium of anti-slavery papers, nevertheless it is not unreasonable to suppose that very little is generally known in relation to this case.

Briefly, the facts are these, which doubtless have never before been fully published—­

Brown was a man of invention as well as a hero.  In point of interest, however, his case is no more remarkable than many others.  Indeed, neither before nor after escaping did he suffer one-half what many others have experienced.

He was decidedly an unhappy piece of property in the city of Richmond, Va.  In the condition of a slave he felt that it would be impossible for him to remain.  Full well did he know, however, that it was no holiday task to escape the vigilance of Virginia slave-hunters, or the wrath of an enraged master for committing the unpardonable sin of attempting to escape to a land of liberty.  So Brown counted well the cost before venturing upon this hazardous undertaking.  Ordinary modes of travel he concluded might prove disastrous to his hopes; he, therefore, hit upon a new invention altogether, which was to have himself boxed up and forwarded to Philadelphia direct by express.  The size of the box and how it was to be made to fit him most comfortably, was of his own ordering.  Two feet eight inches deep, two feet wide, and three feet long were the exact dimensions of the box, lined with baize.  His resources with regard to food and water consisted of the following:  One bladder of water and a few small biscuits.  His mechanical implement to meet the death-struggle for fresh air, all told, was one large gimlet.  Satisfied that it would be far better to peril his life for freedom in this way than to remain under the galling yoke of Slavery, he entered his box, which was safely nailed up and hooped with five hickory hoops, and was then addressed by his next friend, James A. Smith, a shoe dealer, to Wm. H. Johnson, Arch street, Philadelphia, marked, “This side up with care.”  In this condition he was sent to Adams’ Express office in a dray, and thence by overland express to Philadelphia.  It was twenty-six hours from the time he left Richmond until his arrival in the City of Brotherly Love.  The notice, “This side up, &c.,” did not avail with the different expressmen, who hesitated not to handle the box in the usual rough manner common to this class of men.  For a while they actually had the box upside down, and had him on his head for miles.  A few days before he was expected, certain intimation was conveyed to a member of the Vigilance Committee that a box might be expected by the three o’clock morning train from the South, which might contain a man.  One of the most

Project Gutenberg
The Underground Railroad from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook