Charleston 1834 Slave Servant’s Badge
In the urban South before the Civil War, slaves were hired out as skilled and semi-skilled labor and the wages would accrue to the slave owner. By the 1820s, slavery for hire became regulated by local government throughout the South, but only Charleston and surrounding areas issued slave hire badges. The badge allowed short term employment without documenting each occurence. By wearing a badge, the slave could be easily identified and distinguished from runaways or freed men or women. This also deterred the stealing of slaves by one slave owner from another.
This diamond-shaped 16 cm tag with four lines the first three raised and last incised in the brass, reads “Charleston 1834 Servant No. 856”. It is in exceptional condition as these badges, often excavated and found worn, dinged and/or illegible. “Charleston” is curved, all letters are very bold, “856" serial number incuse, very strong and very bold. Below, “Servant” in bar-punch, clear and strong. A square brass planchet, top hole, edges clipped, convex, as made. Glossy darker brown, but all extremely clear and quite visible.