Cliveden is the country home of the Philadelphia Chew family, which has been called the owners of the largest slave populations in colonial Delaware and Pennsylvania.(1) So, too is the body of documentation that records their activities, including more than 200,000 original papers now on deposit at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. These papers provide thousands of data points about slave life under the Chew family. Part of this trove also documents their enslaved workers’ efforts to escape, and the punishments of those who failed, the advertisements for those who were “lost”, and at least one poignant struggle when the boundaries between freedom and bondage were so confused that the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society was brought in to help clarify the demarcation. The Chew’s enslaved Negroes experienced many of the situations that marked the long struggle between bondage and freedom. Not unsurprisingly, we see these struggles from the owner’s viewpoint, but on an unusually intimate and sometimes brutal basis. Notes: 1) Gary B. Nash, “Slaves and slave owners in Colonial Philadelphia,” William and Mary Quarterly (3rd series, 30), 1973, p. 250; William H. Williams, Slavery and Freedom in Delaware, 1639-1865 (Wilmington: Scholastic Resources), p. 16.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: 6401 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, 19144
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: James Vaughan
Location Type: Site
People/Organizations Associated with the site: Benjamin Chew (Owner)
Freedom Seekers: Harry (PA, c. early 1800)