Today in History: September 3
"On Monday, the third day of September, 1838, in accordance with my resolution, I bade farewell to the city of Baltimore, and to that slavery which had been my abhorrence from childhood."
On September 3, 1838, abolitionist, journalist, author, and human rights advocate Frederick Douglass made his dramatic escape from slavery—traveling north by train and boat—from Baltimore, through Delaware, to Philadelphia. That same night, he took a train to New York, where he arrived the following morning.
Born into slavery on a plantation in Tuckahoe, Maryland, circa 1817, he was the son of a black mother and an unidentified white father. He never knew the date of his birth, but celebrated his birthday on February 14 in memory of his mother, who had brought him a heart-shaped cake on the night that he last saw her.
Only a small boy when his mother died, Douglass, born Frederick Bailey, lived with his grandmother in the slave quarters until he was eight years old, when he was "hired out" and sent to work in the home of Hugh Auld. While working for the Auld family in Baltimore, Frederick began to acquire a formal education. Mrs. Auld broke Maryland state law in order to teach the young boy to read, and Frederick later tried to learn all he could from schoolboys he met on the streets of Baltimore.
After an earlier unsuccessful attempt, Frederick escaped from slavery in 1838 by posing as a free sailor wearing a red shirt, a tarpaulin hat, and a black scarf tied loosely around his neck. He boarded a train bound for Philadelphia.
On sped the train, and I was well on my way…when the conductor came into the negro car to collect tickets and examine the papers of his black passengers. This was a critical moment in the drama.
Chapter of Frederick Douglass's Draft Manuscript of His Autobiography, Page 4, circa 1880.
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published 1881.
Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years
Frederick had to be able to sound, as well as look, like a sailor:
My knowledge of ships and sailor's talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk sailor like an 'old salt.'
Overjoyed at being free when he reached New York City, Frederick immediately had to face feelings of loneliness and fear as a stranger in a strange land. Fortunately, he was soon given assistance by free black abolitionist and activist David Ruggles.
Two weeks after reaching a free state, Douglass married Anna Murray, a free black woman whom he had met in Baltimore. He settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his experience as a ship caulker enabled him to find work on the docks. In New Bedford, Frederick gave a friend the privilege of choosing for him a new name, since he might be sought under the old name as a runaway:
I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing me a name, but told him he must not take from me the name of "Frederick." I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the Lady of the Lake, and at once suggested that my name be "Douglass."
Three years later, Frederick Douglass began to give lectures on behalf of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (external link) in part to refute charges that it was impossible that someone of his accomplishments could have been a slave.
"My Escape from Slavery (external link)," by Frederick Douglass, was published in November 1881 in The Century Illustrated Magazine. His fully revised autobiography was published as Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (external link), also in 1881. In this section of his revised autobiography, Douglass describes in vivid detail his escape by train from Maryland, where he was legally a slave, north to New York City. Douglass omitted the details of this story from his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (external link) out of concern for the safety of those who helped him escape and for others still held in slavery.
With proceeds from the Narrative and the aid of money and a press provided by British philanthropists, Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany began in 1847 to edit and publish a newspaper, The North Star, based in Rochester, New York.
The goals of the newspaper were to:
Abolish slavery in all its forms and aspects, advocate universal emancipation, exalt the standard of public morality, and promote the moral and intellectual improvement of the colored people, and hasten the day of freedom to the Three Millions of our enslaved fellow countrymen.
The paper also advanced women's rights, a cause that Douglass had championed since his participation in the first women's rights convention of 1848 at Seneca Falls, where he spoke out eloquently in support of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. Douglass was one of the original signers of this manifesto of women's rights, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Charles wrote this letter from Camp Meigs in Readville, Massachusetts. The younger Douglass relates an encounter with a pugilistic Irishman, who began heckling him while he was rejoicing over "the news that Meade had whipped the rebels [at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania]." Before a fight could begin, a policeman led the Irishman away.
During the Civil War, Douglass advised President Lincoln, urging him to allow the enlistment of African-American soldiers and to frame the conflict as an assault on slavery. He was responsible for recruiting African Americans to fight for the Union, and his own two sons, Charles and Lewis, enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
After the war, Douglass held several appointed government positions, including U.S. marshal of D.C. He continued to fight for the civil rights of African Americans and women. He was U.S. minister and general consul to Haiti from 1889-91.
After Douglass' death in 1895, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Association purchased "Cedar Hill," Douglass' home for the last eighteen years of his life. The association donated the site to the National Park Service which restored the home in 1971-72 with information obtained from the Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present collection.
Find out more about Frederick Douglass in American Memory:
- Visit the The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress to view approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images) relating to Douglass' life as an escaped slave, abolitionist, editor, orator, and public servant.
- These collections and exhibitions contain many images of Douglass and texts written by and about him:
- African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907 (includes texts of several addresses given by Douglass)
- The African-American Experience in Ohio: Selections from the Ohio Historical Society
- African American Odyssey
- Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present
- The African-American Mosaic Exhibition is a Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History & Culture.
- Search the Today in History Archives on Frederick Douglass or abolition and abolitionist to find relevant features such as those for April 16, 1888 and January 2, 1893.
- See the sheet music for Frederick Douglass' Funeral March by N. Clark Smithe (1890) in the collection The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.
- A digital image of another page of Douglass's newspaper, The North Star, June 20, 1850 is available in the Influence of Prominent Abolitionists section of the exhibition, The African-American Mosaic: African-American Culture and History.
- Visit The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service. Don't miss the exhibition American Visionaries: Frederick Douglass, also produced by the NPS.
The cover's text states that the song was "composed and respectfully dedicated, in token of confident esteem to Frederick Douglass…for his fearless advocacy, signal ability and wonderful success in behalf of His Brothers in Bonds…and to the Fugitives From Slavery…by their friend Jesse Hutchinson, Jr."
Is there anything that does not reside in function and form? Not that I have been able to discover.
Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats 1
Architect and writer Louis Henri Sullivan was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 3, 1856. Sullivan spent much of his youth on his grandparents' small farm. At age sixteen, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture. A pioneer in the design of skyscrapers, Sullivan not only contributed to Chicago's role as a center of architectural innovation, but inspired generations of architects with his core philosophy that "form ever follows function." Among them was Prairie School icon Frank Lloyd Wright, for whom Sullivan served as a mentor.
Having worked briefly as a draftsman in Philadelphia, in 1873 Sullivan moved to Chicago, then in the midst of a building boom following the great Chicago Fire of 1871. After a stint in the office of William Le Baron Jenney and a study trip to Europe, Sullivan first worked for and then joined in partnership with Dankmar Adler, a well-connected architect and engineer.
During the next fourteen years, the firm of Adler and Sullivan produced over 100 landmark buildings, including public and commercial projects as well as private residences. Their first large-scale commission, the multi-use Auditorium Building (1886-90), became one of their most widely renowned efforts. As described in Rand, McNally & Company's 1893 Guide to Chicago,
This celebrated and magnificent structure, the chief architectural spectacle in Chicago…covers 1 ½ acres, and the height of the main building is 145 feet, with 10 stories and a basement. The spacious tower, however, is 17 or more stories in height, and measures 270 feet from the ground. The walls are of granite and Bedford stone to the top, and the interior is of steel, terra cotta, and other non-combustible materials. A hotel (to which the Extension belongs), the largest theater in the world, a recital hall, 4 stores, and 136 offices go to make up the building…There are 13 passenger elevators, and 3 entrances to as many parts of the structure. It is estimated that in the mosaics of this great fabric are 50,000,000 pieces of marble, all placed by hand…The Republican National Convention of June, 1888, was held in the theater, and the finished building was dedicated by President Harrison during the holidays of 1889-90. Cost, $3,200,000.2
Other significant buildings by Adler and Sullivan include the Wainwright Building (1891) in St. Louis, the Guaranty (later Prudential) Building (1895) in Buffalo, New York, and in Chicago, the Stock Exchange (1894), Gage Building (1898-99), and Transportation Building for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. This last building, a polychrome structure with an arched and gilded entranceway, presented a radical departure from the Exposition's otherwise neoclassical architecture as coordinated by Sullivan's competitor, Daniel H. Burnham.
One of Sullivan's great contributions came in articulating the form of the developing skyscraper building type. As pioneered by Jenney with his Home Insurance Building, skyscrapers were constructed using steel frameworks faced with lightweight curtain walls, rather than traditional load-bearing masonry. This new technique (combined with elevators for upper-floor access) allowed buildings to grow taller while incorporating more open space and larger windows on each floor.
Sullivan's striking designs were an acknowledgment of verticality. In an article titled "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered"3, he explained the importance of matching each part of a building's exterior to its function:
The lowest stories should articulate a building's entrance, attracting the eye and drawing the visitor in; the upper tiers of identical office floors should all look alike because they are alike; the cornice and roofline should broadly proclaim that the building's great height has reached its full extent.
Sullivan's other great achievement was the rich ornamental work that adorned many of his buildings. Whether in stone, brick, terra cotta, plaster, brass, cast iron, wood, or paint, his lushly intertwining embellishments—based in nature or in the designs of cultures from around the world—were integral to the success of his overall designs.
After his association with Adler ended in 1895, Sullivan went on to design Chicago's Schlesinger and Mayer Department Store (1899-1904), soon renamed the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Department Store, his last large-scale project. Facing financial hardship, Sullivan turned to designing a series of small-town bank buildings across the Midwest, which came to be known as his "jewel box banks" for their striking use of multiple colors and textures. These buildings include the Merchants' National Bank (1914) in Grinnell, Iowa, the National Farmers' Bank (1906-08) in Owatonna, Minnesota, the Farmers' and Merchants' Union Bank (1919) in Columbus, Wisconsin, and the People's Savings and Loan Association (1917-18) in Sidney, Ohio.
Sullivan was a prolific writer throughout his life. In addition to Kindergarten Chats, first published serially in Interstate Architect & Builder in 1901-02 and later revised, he published numerous articles and drafted a book about architecture, nature, and democracy. In his memoir, Autobiography of an Idea (also serialized and then printed as a whole in 1924, the last year of his life) Sullivan expressed his architectural philosophy as it had developed across a lifetime of practice.
The American Memory collections contain a wealth of information on American architecture:
- Search the Today in History Archive on architect to read features on Sullivan's rival David H. Burnham, his student Frank Lloyd Wright, and other American architects such as Cyrus Eidlitz, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead.
- Search the following collections for images of American-designed buildings:
- Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America: Photographs by Samuel Gottscho and William Schleisner, 1935-1955
- American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920: a Study Collection from the Harvard Graduate School of Design
- Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959
- Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991
- Small-Town America: Stereoscopic Views from the Robert Dennis Collection, 1850-1920
- Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920
- To learn more about skyscrapers, search across American Memory or in the Today in History Archive on skyscraper.
- Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present contains architectural surveys from across the United States, including buildings by Sullivan, Adler and Sullivan, and other members of the Chicago School of architecture. Search the collection for Sullivan, but also (using the architect's last name) on Dankmar Adler, Daniel H. Burnham, William Le Baron Jenney, William Holabird, Martin Roche, and John Wellborn Root. Browse the collection for Illinois--Cook County--Chicago to view and compare all the Chicago surveys.
- To see more images of buildings designed by Sullivan, and by the firm Adler and Sullivan, search across the American Memory collections of photographs and prints as well as the Library's Prints & Photographs Online Catalog on those names. Search on the names of specific buildings, such as Auditorium Building or Chicago Stock Exchange, for even more examples.
- For more images of Chicago at the turn of the century, search on Chicago in American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936: Images from the University of Chicago Library and search or browse Photographs from the Chicago Daily News, from the Chicago History Museum.
1. Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (New York: Dover Publications, 1979), 124. (Return to text)
2. Rand, McNally & Co's Bird's-Eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago and New York: Rand McNally, 1893), 64. (Return to text)
3. Louis H. Sullivan, "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered," Lippincott's Magazine 57 (March 1896), 403-09. (Return to text)
On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, bringing the Revolutionary War to its final conclusion. Nearly two years had passed since British General Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, which had effectively ended the fighting.
With this treaty, Great Britain recognized American independence and agreed upon borders for the new nation. The Continental Congress had ratified preliminary articles of peace on April 15.
- Browse Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789 which contains 2,774 broadsides, chronicling the founding of the nation from the beginnings of colonial resistance to British rule through the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. The collection includes the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, various drafts of the Constitution, resolutions, proclamations, and treaties.
- Read the text of the Treaty of Paris in a 1783 broadside printed in Philadelphia by David C. Claypoole. Browse subject headings such Treaties--Great Britain--1783 or Treaties--Iroquois Indians--1784 for more treaties from this same period. Trace the roots of independent America in the Special Presentation To Form a More Perfect Union: An Introduction to the Congressional Documents and in the timeline America During the Age of Revolution.
- Browse the Journals of the Continental Congress, part of A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875. Click on "View Navigator" and then select a particular date. These journals are the records of the daily proceedings of the Congress as kept by the office of its secretary, Charles Thomson.
- Search across the entire collection for example, on Treaty of Paris for a rich documentary history of the development of the nation, the federal government, and its role in the national life.
- Visit A Guide to the American Revolution, 1763-1783 to locate materials relating to the Revolution including manuscripts, books, and maps, as well as a selected bibliography. See the page on The Treaty of Paris in Primary Documents of American History.
- Explore close-up views of maps of the era using the zoom feature in The American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789 in Map Collections.
- To learn more about Washington's role in the Revolutionary War, examine the collection George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799, which includes a timeline of events with links to related correspondence.
- Read excerpts from The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress to discover more about the American revolutionary who drafted the Declaration of Independence at the age of thirty-three. The collection includes relevant time lines and a selection of quotations.
- Search the Today in History Archive on Revolutionary War for more events in the American struggle for independence or search on Constitution for events in the development of this foundational document of democracy. Examples of related features include the Boston Massacre, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the signing of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.