Vermont Papers Tell the Story of Solomon Northup

While the Academy Award-winning film, 12 Years a Slave, has recently been the subject of articles in Vermont newspapers, stories about Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York State who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, first appeared in Vermont papers during the 1850s. A search of Chronicling America titles indicates that Vermont papers printed articles about Northup’s rescue and also covered the subsequent arrests and trials of his kidnappers and the man who sold him into slavery.

watchman1853feb10_3On February 10, 1853, a long article from the New York Daily Times appeared on the front page of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal. In great detail, it described Henry B. Northup’s 1852 journey to Louisiana to rescue Solomon Northup and the arrest and trial of James H. Burch, the Washington DC slave trader who sold Solomon Northup in 1841. Burch convincingly argued that he sold Northup believing that he was a slave, and the court discharged the case.

Later, the two men who kidnapped Northup were identified and arrested. On August 9, 1852, the Middlebury Register ran a short article anticipating that the kidnappers were “likely to end their base careers by TEN YEARS OF SLAVERY in the penitentiary.”

On November 1, 1854, the Register reported that the kidnappers’ trial was delayed by the lack of witnesses. In February 1855, the Vermont Watchman reported further delays because the defendants raised jurisdictional issues. Ultimately, the case collapsed and the two men spent only seven months in jail.

The VTDNP recently digitized three antislavery papers, including the Green Mountain Freeman, which will soon be available at Chronicling America. On January 23, 1855, the Freeman reported that sixty people who gathered at the Free Church in Montpelier gained “a new feeling of hatred and horror of slavery” when Solomon Northup lectured about his twelve years of bondage.

The Middlebury Register reported a strange twist in the Northup story in its August 1, 1855 issue. An article reprinted from the Whitehall (NY) Chronicle described the arrest of Henry B. Northup, Solomon’s rescuer, in Pittsburgh on charges of being a slave catcher. He was released only after a telegram from New York confirmed that he was indeed not a slave catcher.

-P. Doherty

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The Barre Telegram, Parte Italiana, and S. Pallavicini


From 1898 to 1903, Henry C. Whitaker edited the Barre Evening Telegram, which will soon be available in Chronicling America. Barre was the center of Vermont’s thriving granite industry, with a significant population of Scottish and Italian immigrants, and the Telegram reported on the granite business, union and labor issues, and immigrant activities. For a very brief period during Whitaker’s tenure, the Telegram included an Italian language section, “Parte Italiana.” Whitaker invited Salvatore Pallavicini to compile the section for the city’s rapidly expanding Italian colony. Pallavicini was an interesting choice, as he was active in the transnational Italian anarchist network.

Pallavicini is somewhat obscure in the historical record. It’s not known when he came to the United States, but sources report that he published anarchist Pietro Gori’s play Primo Maggio and a newspaper, Lo Scalpellino (The Stonecutter) in Barre in 1896. (Note: An Italian paper of the same name was published around 1915 in Barre.)  He represented New York’s Italian Typographical Union at an 1897 rally celebrating the assassination of a Spanish politician, and also supported striking textile workers in Summit, New Jersey during the summer of 1898. During the same month that he was compiling “Parte Italiana” for the Telegram, he contributed two articles to La Question Sociale, a leading anarchist paper published in Paterson, New Jersey.

ImageIn the first issue of “Parte Italiana,” Pallavicini promised that the news would be presented in a neutral manner, but in the January 2, 1899 issue, he filled most of the half-page section with an article in which he wondered if 1899 would be the year that workers would rise against tyrants. The Telegram ended the Italian section without comment, although Italian advertisements for local businesses ran for several more weeks.

Later in January, the Telegram ran advertisements for a lecture series by the anarchist and activist Emma Goldman. Pallavicini was her host, and she remembered him as “a cultivated man, well-informed not only on the international labor movement, but also on the new tendencies in Italian art and letters.” Goldman delivered three of four planned lectures. The Telegram reported favorably on the first one, but did not comment on the next two. Barre police canceled the fourth lecture, but local anarchists—perhaps including Pallavicini—printed and distributed copies of her speech.

The 1899 Barre city directory indicates that Pallavicini lived at 47 Granite Street, across from the site where the Socialist Labor Party hall would soon stand. Vermont naturalization records show that Salvatore Pallavicini, born 1851 in Italy, became an American citizen in 1899.  An ad in the Telegram indicates that he worked for a local wood and coal dealer, serving as an agent to the Italian colony.  In 1900, the city directory noted that Pallavicini had left the United States for France, where he died in 1901. After his death, newspapers and police reports implicated him in the 1901 assassination of Italy’s King Umberto I.

Image-P. Doherty

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Our first French-language title, Le Patriote Canadien

Patriote-banner Now available on Chronicling America, our first French-language title, Le Patriote canadien! Published from 1839 to 1840 by the well-known French-Canadian printer and VT-Phoenix-Duvernayjournalist, Ludger Duvernay, Le Patriote canadien is an enduring chronicle of the ties between Vermont and Québec during an important period of history.  The Rebellion in Lower Canada / La rébellion du Bas-Canada in 1837-1838, marked the culmination of a long political conflict  between the civil population of Lower Canada (now Québec) and the forces of the colonial British government. As tensions mounted, armed clashes erupted between the rebels or ‘patriotes’ and the British. Martial law was declared, and many patriots were exiled under pain of death. Claiming civil rights and the establishment of an independent Canadian Republic, many of the exiles fled across the border to Vermont. In the wake of these circumstances, in August 1839, Le Patriote canadien emerged in Burlington, published by Duvernay, a prominent exile and consummate journalist, as an organ of dissemination and communication to flame the fire of rebellion against the injustices of the colonial regime.

Ludger Duvernay (1799-1852), 1832, by Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy (1778-1848), Journalist, printer, publisher of Le Patriote Canadien, Burlington, Vermont, 1839-1840. Oil on canvas, Montréal, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Ludger-Duvernay House.

Ludger Duvernay (1799-1852), 1832, by Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy (1778-1848).

A printer by profession, Duvernay published a number of newspapers in Canada, including the Gazette des Trois-Rivières  and La Minerve which supported the Parti Patriote (the Patriote’s political party) and Louis-Joseph Papineau in the years leading up to the Rebellion. On November 16, 1837, facing an arrest warrant, his printing office was sacked and he was forced to flee. Duvernay was appointed officer of a small Patriote battalion and, on December 6, 1837, took part in the Battle of Moore’s Corner, near Saint-Armand, along the border with Vermont. Defeated, he took refuge in Vermont.

Duvernay found a more liberal environment in Burlington for publishing his views of the injustices of the regime in Canada. The banner reads, “Journal hebdomadaire, politique, historique, littéraire et industriel” [Weekly, political, historical, literary and industrial journal] and gives a central place to the Patriote motto “l’union fait la force” [strength in unity].  Le Patriote canadien

Banner detail: "L'Union fait la Force" [Strength in Unity]

Banner detail: “L’Union fait la Force” [Strength in Unity]

contains chronicles of various episodes of the rebellion, along with stories and poems celebrating popular uprisings against governments in Canada or Europe. The journal also offers Canadian news, articles translated from foreign newspapers and advertisements. The vast majority of the newspaper is written in French, but each issue contains at least one article in English, often a translation of the most important article of the issue. Duvernay himself wrote most of the texts of the Patriote canadien, which reflects the political thought of the publisher, as well as the various issues faced by the exiled patriots living in the United States in the 1830-1840s. However, Le Patriote canadien also offers more general reflections on education, agriculture and industrialization.

The issue for September 4, 1839, includes a remarkably rich bilingual “topographical notice” which gives a detailed, description Burlington on the front page.

Le Patriote canadien. (Burlington, Vt.), 04 Sept. 1839. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  Extract from a bilingual article: Notice topographique/ Topographical notice – detailed description of Burlington, Vermont.  4 Septembre 1839, p. 1.

Le Patriote canadien. (Burlington, Vt.), 04 Sept. 1839. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <> Extract from a bilingual article: Notice topographique/ Topographical notice – detailed description of Burlington, Vermont. 4 Septembre 1839, p. 1.

Le Patriote canadien is distinguished as the first French-language newspaper to be published in New England.  We are very pleased that Le Patriote canadien is now available in its entirety at the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America web site.

For the complete list of Vermont’s historical newspapers in Chronicling America, see:

– Birdie MacLennan and Fanny Mion-Mouton



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