Hope Factory to Franklin, Tennessee: April 24th 1844. Unbound. This two-page stampless folded letter measures 15” x 12” unfolded. It was hand-carried by a slave between two brothers who owned a textile-grist mill complex and is annotated “Per boy Will” in the lower left corner of the address panel. In nice shape. A transcript will be provided.
This letter, discussing problems with their mills reads in part:
“We had started the wheel with stone on it – the mill don’t grind well at all [but] it makes flour & hommany at the same time – Weather the furnaces are too deep [I] cant say [but I] can put my fist into it [so] the furnace is soft in places – had I seen it – I would not have bought it. . .. This morning Pillow [has] gone to the factory on Richland Creek [bought by] Mr. Kennedy. . .. he is very anxious for you to come here and see what about the wheel – he seems satisfied about the wheel that it will do well [but] on my part can’t say – think it takes two much water for the work it performs time will tell – if you can come here it would be more satisfaction to him – and especially if you and him should conclud to go and commence something [new] . . . cant say that [I] would like to risk it unless I can be convinced of the quantity of water it uses. . ..". Very good. Item #009783
Following iron-making, cotton manufacturing was the second largest industrial activity in antebellum Tennessee with the highest concentration of mills located in Lawrence County. The most important was Hope Factory, established in 1823 by William and Thomas Parkes. The Parkes established a second nearby mill, Glen Factory, in the 1840s and, as discussed in a slave-carried letter between them that I sold a number of years ago, built a Rope Factory in 1838. White laborers and black slaves worked together in the Parkes factories. (For more information see Wells and Green’s The Southern Middle Class in the Long Nineteenth Century.)
Although we have sold several examples over the past 20 years, slave-carried mail is exceptionally scarce. When encountered, it is inevitably annotated with the slave's name on the cover which served as evidence that the he (or she) had permission to be traveling alone. As of 2021, no slave-carried mail is listed in OCLC, and the Stamp Auction Network shows only two have appeared at auction in the last 25 years. At the time of listing, there are no others for sale in the trade.