Seth Kaller, Inc.

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INV-23273 JOHN BROWN Autograph Letter Signed, to William Beall. Springfield, Mass., May 1, 1851. 1 p., 6 x 7 in. 1851-05-01

Some fifteen years before his ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry, abolitionist John Brown operated an Ohio tannery and dealt in cattle, horses, and sheep. His passion for abolition grew alongside his expertise in sheep and wool, as Brown’s business travels throughout Ohio put him in the same circles as fervent abolitionists. In 1844, he began a partnership with Simon Perkins. Two years later, in 1846, Brown and Perkins moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, a progressive community deeply interest in anti-slavery campaigns. From a business perspective, Brown had hoped that by moving East, he could command higher prices for wool both at home and in Europe. Instead, Brown grew more radical while in Springfield, believing that slavery would only end through violence. In 1850, he founded the League of the Gileadites, a militant group devoted to preventing the capture of fugitive slaves. From that point on, no fugitive slaves from the Springfield area were ever returned to slavery. Unfortunately, the wool business failed, setting Brown on his fateful path as a militant abolitionist in Massachusetts, Kansas, and Virginia in the years leading to the Civil War.

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