A fundamental objective of Beneath the Underground is to explore the legacy of the Underground Railroad with the primary documents available at the Maryland State Archives. The purpose of this guide is to help website visitors understand the usefulness and history of the records mined for this project, as well as, to give insight into our research methodology.


Advertisements include Domestic Traffic, Runaway Ads & Committal Notices

Newspapers (listed alphabetically):
Newspapers are some of the most useful tools to document flight during the Antebellum Era. Subscribers placing either runaway advertisements or committal notices utilized periodicals as a public forum to appeal for the return of their property. The newspapers stripped for this project range from the 1730's to1864 and come from numerous counties throughout the state, as well as Washington, DC and Virginia. Each advertisement is unique and can include important information such as: the names of slaves and their owners, date of flight, state and county of flight, reward for apprehension, physical attributes of the fugitive and likely destinations.

Domestic Traffic Ads

For the purposes of this project, domestic traffic is defined as the interstate and intrastate trade of enslaved men, women, women and children. Similar to runaway ads and committal notices, domestic traffic ads were a means of communicating to the general public the subscriber’s desire to buy or sell a slave(s). Ads could be placed by private slave dealers and agents, gentry in need of domestic help, yeomen in need of extra field hands, or a public sale of an estate by the orphan’s court.

Please note, for the purpose of citation, an example of MSA archival citation is: Special Collections (Newspapers), title of press, date, and MSA SC ####.

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (1802-1853) MSA SC 3392
American and Commercial Advertiser (1854-1856, 1861-1869) MSA SC 4149, 4148
American and Daily Advertiser (1799-1802) MSA SC 2832
American Sentinel (1855-1865) MSA SC 2900
American Union (1860, 1861, 1864), MSA SC 2929
Annapolis Gazette (1854-1874) MSA SC 3322
Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser (1857-1861) MSA SC 4104
Baltimore Clipper (1839-1844) MSA SC 3252
Baltimore County Advocate (1855-1864) MSA SC 2932
Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (1825-1838) MSA SC 4318
Baltimore Patriot and Mercantile Advertiser (1817-1838) MSA SC 4098
Baltimore Sun (1837-1859) MSA SC 2852
Baltimore Telegraphe Daily Advertiser (1797-1805) MSA SC 3297
Baltimore Weekly Sun (1859-1860) MSA SC 3258
Cambridge Chronicle (1830-1854) MSA SC 2842
Cambridge Herald (1857-1863) MSA SC 3486
Cecil Democrat (1850-1861) MSA SC 3387
Cecil Democrat and Farmer’s Journal (1846-1850) MSA SC 3478
Cecil Whig (1841-1998) MSA SC 3341
Chestertown Telegraph (1825-1826) MSA SC 2904
Clearspring Sentinel (18491103-18510230) MSA SC 3328
Commercial Chronicle and Daily Marylander (1832-1833) MSA SC 4370
Cumberland Civilian (1829-1833) MSA SC 3553; (1840-1851) MSA SC 3554
Cumberland Civilian and the Pheonix Civilian (1833-1834) MSA SC 3554
Daily Baltimore Republican (1855-1861) MSA SC 2894
Daily National Intelligencer (1813-1869) MSA SC 3745
Daily Republican and Argus (1845-1846) MSA SC 3400; (1848-1850) MSA SC 3510
Democrat and Carroll County Republican (1838-1846) MSA SC 3476
Easton Gazette (1821-1928) MSA SC 2940
Easton Star (1844-1892) MSA SC 3596
Elkton Press (1823-18280719) (18290404-1832) MSA SC 3319
Elkton Press and Cecil County Advertiser (18280719-18290404) MSA SC 3319
Evening Star OCLC 20714588
Farmer’s Register and Maryland Herald (18280506-18310111) MSA SC 3721
Frederick Herald (1832-1861) MSA SC 3407
Frederick Town Herald (1802-1832) MSA SC 2829
Hagerstown Mail (1828-1831) (1835-1880) MSA SC 3609
Hagerstown Torchlight and Public Advertiser (1837-1846) MSA SC 3458
Harford Democrat (1856-1857) MSA SC 3306
Kent News (1840-1947) MSA SC 2901
Madisonian and Harford and Baltimore Advertiser (1837-1840) MSA SC 3310
Marlboro Gazette and Prince George’s Advertiser (1836-1925) MSA SC 2944
Maryland Gazette (1745-1813) MSA SC 2731
Maryland Gazette (1827-1839) MSA SC 3447
Maryland Gazette and Political Intelligencer (1813-1824) MSA SC 3403
Maryland Gazette and State Register (1824-1826) MSA SC 3428
Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser (1773-1794) MSA SC 2830
Maryland Republican (1809-1817) MSA SC 3411
Maryland Republican (1826-1863) MSA SC 3655
Maryland Republican and Political and Agricultural Museum (1817-1826) MSA SC 2946
Montgomery County Sentinel (1856-1954) MSA SC 2813
National American (1856-1866) MSA SC 3815
National Intelligencer (1810-1812) MSA SC 3745
National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser (1800-1810) MSA SC 176
Odd Fellow (18430523-18430627) (18471228-18491211) MSA SC 3614
Phoenix Civilian (1833-1840) MSA SC 3930
Pilot and Transcript (1840-1841) MSA SC 3293
Planter’s Advocate (1853-1861) MSA SC 3415
Planter’s Advocate and Southern Maryland Advertiser (1851-1853) MSA SC 2949
Port Tobacco Times (1844-1845) MSA SC 4987
Port Tobacco Times and Charles County Advertiser (1845-1898) MSA SC 3464
Republican and Argus (1847) MSA SC 3401
Republican and Daily Argus (1842-1845) MSA SC 3512
Republican and Daily Argus (1850-1852) MSA SC 2893
Republican Citizen and State Advertiser (1821-1823) MSA SC 4172
Republican Citizen (1836-1890) MSA SC 3600
Republican Star (1802-1832) MSA SC 3952
Snow Hill Borderer (1834-1835) OCLC 19017442
Snow Hill Messenger and Worcester County Advertiser (1830-1832) MSA SC 3765
Somerset Herald (1840-184106) MSA SC 4179
Somerset Iris and the Messenger of Truth (1828-1829) MSA SC 4178
Southern Aegis (1857-1862) MSA SC 3312
Washington Daily Globe (1832-1883) MSA SC 5424
Weekly Clipper (1851-1861) MSA SC 3785
Westminster Carrolltonian (1836-1844) MSA SC 3422
Worcester Banner (1838-1840) MSA SC 3794
Worcester Sentinel and Farmer’s and Mechanics’ Shield (1835-1837) MSA SC 3796

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Runaway Ads & Committal Notices

Maryland State Archives Government Records
The records series the Archives has examined through the years of the two grants include the following, some exhaustively:

Slave Jail Records:
The Maryland State Archives houses the jail records from Baltimore City and County from 1827-1899. The Baltimore County docket from 1827-1832 lists persons arrested for an assortment of crimes, but for the purpose of this project, only runaway slaves were recorded. Beginning in 1831, a separate docket was created for runaways committed to the county jail. The following year, 1832, the county jail records were moved to the jurisdiction of Baltimore City. From 1832-1864, runaways were recorded in separate runaway dockets of the Baltimore City jail.

Baltimore County Jail (County Docket), 1827-1832, MSA C2052
Baltimore County Jail (Runaway Docket), 1831-1832, MSA C2063
Baltimore City and County Jail (Runaway Docket), 1832-1836, MSA C2065-1
Baltimore City Jail (Runaway Docket), 1836-1850, MSA C2065-2
Baltimore City Jail (Runaway Docket), 1850-1864, MSA C2065-3

Penitentiary Records:
The Maryland Penitentiary was the firststate sponsored prison. Prior to its establishment in 1811, criminals were housed in county jails and workhouses. The facility was designed to house both male and female prisoners who spent much of their time participating in hard and industrial labor. For this project only the names of prisoners who were charged for crimes related to or in opposition to the system of enslavement were recorded.

Please also note:
In the original prisoner records, the entries under the column entitled “Complexion” were based on the discretion of the person who originally recorded the prisoner’s description. It was determined by this project’s researchers that the term “Fair” was used to describe a white or Caucasian person as opposed to a more modern interpretation of light skin black or mulatto.

Maryland Penitentiary (Prisoners Record), 1811-1840, MSA S275-1
Maryland Penitentiary (Prisoners Record), 1811, 1826-1869, MSA S275-2


State Pardon Records
The office of the Secretary of State was created in 1837 to replace the Governor’s Council. The 1851 state constitution required the Secretary to keep and preserve all official acts and proceedings. Early official records include railroad charters, election returns, and state pardons. The information found in this series involves persons charged or imprisoned for crimes related to slavery.
Secretary of State (Pardon Record), 1845-1865, MSA S1108-2
Secretary of State (Pardon Docket), 1862-1869, MSA S1110-1

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