Site of William Craft’s Shop

A neighborhood sidewalk with two trees on either side. A lot is behind the sidewalk.
The approximate site of William Craft's cabinet-making shop.

NPS Photo/Benstead

Quick Facts
51 Cambridge Street
Site of a shop owned by a freedom seeker.

By 1850, freedom seeker William Craft had set up a cabinet-making shop at 51 Cambridge Street. While enslaved in Macon, Georgia, Craft learned this trade and used his wages to cover the costs to flee north with his wife Ellen. According to historian Gary Collison, in 1850 Craft’s gross income from his shop equaled around $700.1

On October 25, 1851 slave catchers obtained a warrant for William and Ellen Craft’s arrest. A Boston Herald article announced the warrant and identified William Craft as being "in the cabinet making business at 51 Cambridge Street."2 Upon hearing the news of the warrant, Craft barricaded himself in his shop with his clothes and several weapons.3 Officers attempted to serve the warrant to Craft at his shop, but William did not let them in.4

Abolitionists and members of the community sought to protect William and Ellen Craft from the slave catchers. Historian Gary Collison, citing a New York Daily Tribune article, described how "no one could approach within a hundred yards of the shop 'without being seen by a hundred eyes.'"5

When the slave catchers failed to arrest the Crafts, William and Ellen departed for England, with William leaving behind his cabinet-making shop.

Article announcing the arrest warrant for the Crafts.

This article announces the arrest warrant for the Crafts. (Credit: "Atlas of Boston," 1874, State Library of Massachusetts)


  1. Kathryn Grover and Janine V. Da Silva, "Historic Resource Study: Boston African American National Historic Site," Boston African American National Historic Site, (2002), 95
  2. Boston Herald, October 26, 1851
  3. Grover and Da Silva, "Historic Resource Study," 95-96; William Still, Still's Underground Rail Road Records: With a Life of the Author. Narrating the Hardships, Hairbreadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom (United States: William Still, 1886), 388; Gary Collison, Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 98.
  4. Gary Collison, Shadrach Minkins, 98.
  5. Grover and Da Silva, "Historic Resource Study," 96; Gary Collison, Shadrach Minkins, 98.

Boston African American National Historic Site

Last updated: January 8, 2023