Collectors Today

The Gail and Stephen Rudin Slavery Collection

In December 2002, Gail Rudin ’56 and Stephen Rudin donated their outstanding collection on the history of American slavery to Cornell University Library. The Rudin Slavery Collection comprises more than three hundred manuscripts, letters, and other items documenting the sale, hire, purchase and debt payment of slaves in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America.

With the goal of demonstrating how slavery was once intertwined in the common economic and social practices of everyday American life, Stephen Rudin assembled an astonishing collection of rare documents, ensuring that this terrible aspect of our history will not be forgotten. Through estate appraisals, wills, manumissions, taxation and insurance records, slave auction advertisements, correspondence, engravings, and other records, the collection offers valuable insights into the institution of slavery in American from the eighteenth century to the Civil War.

The Gail and Stephen Rudin Slavery Collection further solidifies Cornell’s commitment to documenting this subject, building upon the Library’s extensive collections on the abolitionist movement and the American Civil War. Cornell gratefully acknowledges Gail and Stephen Rudin for their spectacular gifts to Cornell University Library on the occasion of Gail Rudin’s fiftieth Cornell Reunion.

Slave Sale Broadside from Missouri, 1858.

Printed advertisements for the sale of slaves were posted to attract buyers and often provided descriptions of available “merchandise.”

Slave Dealer’s Price Listing. Richmond, Virginia: Johnson, Snyder and Adams, September 20, 1860.

This document offers a list of men, women and children available for purchase, along with sales prices and a description of the “merchandise” for sale.

“A Slave Auction in Virginia.” Illustrated London News. February 16, 1861.

This wood engraving depicts an indoor slave auction. A slave mother and child stand on a raised platform as the auctioneer conducts the bidding. Other slaves stand in the background awaiting their fate on the auction block.

Runaway Slave Broadside. November 2, 1853.

This notice offers a $200 reward for the capture and return of the slave named Warner Sale to his owner.

View a photo of this exhibition case

View the Previous Section | View the Next Section