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A Sketch of Henry Franklin and Family.
Philadelphia: Collins Printing House, [1887].


The Sketch of Henry Franklin and Family (1887) was written by an unknown author for an unknown purpose. It contains excerpts from the Philadelphia Inquirer, but the author of those excerpts is also unknown.

According to the Sketch, Henry Franklin (ca. 1804-89) was originally born with the name Bill Budd, but when he escaped from slavery in 1837, he changed his name, presumably to prevent his master from finding him. Franklin was born in the household of Adam Good, a tavern keeper in Little Pipe Creek, Maryland, and remained the property of Good until he was nine years old, when he was sold to Abraham Shriner, also of Little Pipe Creek. Franklin was "well cared for, sharing in the exercises and enjoyments of" Shriner's children, "as well as attending to more laborious duties" on Shriner's farm (p. 2). Eventually, "the main burden of the farm rested upon" Franklin, and he assumed responsibility for "marketing the produce, hauling the grain and flour to Baltimore market, etc." (p. 2). While Shriner had promised Franklin his freedom at age 35, Franklin feared that Shriner would renege on his pledge and never returned from an authorized vacation spent visiting his father during the celebration of Pentecost in 1837. Franklin made his way to Quakerstown, Pennyslvania, where he was employed by and harbored in the home of Quaker Richard Moore, an abolitionist and an active member of the Underground Railroad. In 1864, Franklin moved to Philadelphia, where he was employed as a janitor and messenger at the Academy of Fine Arts and where he worked until shortly before his death. In Pennsylvania, Franklin married Ann Brooks, a free African American woman he had met in Maryland, but she died shortly thereafter. Subsequent wives bore Franklin several children, including a son, Henry Franklin Jr. (1859-84), who learned three foreign languages and worked as a salesman for a prestigious firm in Paris before his death in 1884. The mother of Franklin's children—who is unnamed in the text—died of consumption, and his children were reared by several different women whose relationship to Franklin is unknown. Franklin eventually married an African American woman named Eliza (1833-?), who probably worked with him as a janitor at the Academy. After the Civil War officially legitimized his freedom, Franklin, Sr., frequently returned to his former home in Maryland and maintained a warm relationship with the Shriner family until his death.

In addition to portraying the life of Henry Franklin, the Sketch provides a history of Franklin's parents, Jared Budd and Ann Franklin. Budd is originally enslaved to J. Ross Key, but his son Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, eventually sells Budd to Adam Good so that Budd can marry Ann Franklin, one of Good's slaves. Franklin is the daughter of Mammy Dianny, a regionally renowned cook whose food attracted visitors such as George Washington to Good's tavern.

When nine year-old Henry Franklin Sr. is sold to Shriner, his parents are sold to different owners. Ann Franklin and Jared Budd's respective buyers are both members of a German pietist reform sect known as the Dunkards, and because they feel "somewhat conscientious about holding slaves," they allow Ann Franklin and Budd to purchase their freedom (p. 1). Years later, after Henry Franklin has escaped from Shriner, his parents join him in Quakerstown, Pennsylvania, and Budd supports himself by making brooms.

The Sketch also treats the Shriners as an extension of Henry Franklin's family when he reconnects with them after the Civil War. In an ironic inversion of power, Franklin even saves his former "'young master,' Alfred Shriner" from "destitution . . . out of his own means" and through the liberality of his "influential and wealthy friends" at the Academy of Fine Arts (p. 5). Waiting for the help Franklin promises him, Shriner tells his wife, "'We will have to do like the children of Israel when they came to the Red Sea, wait and see,' when, sure enough, here you came as our Moses from far-off Philadelphia" (p. 5). Though Franklin had once feared that the Shriners would not grant him his freedom, he ultimately proves the means by which one member of that family is able to avoid poverty.

Works Cited: United States Census Office, Population Schedules of the Tenth Census of the United States, Washington: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 196-, Series T9, Roll 1172, p. 275.

Zachary Hutchins

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