1813 Roger B. Taney & Francis Scott Key Signed Slave Document
Appraised Value: $3,000 (1999)
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:23)
Books & Manuscripts
Senior Vice President & Senior Specialist, Rare Books and Manuscripts
APPRAISER: You brought a very unusual document. It's a legal document; we know that much.
GUEST: That's quite right.
APPRAISER: And there's property being transferred from one owner to another here. What's the nature of the property? You've read the document.
GUEST: The sale of property from some slaveholders in Frederick County to slaveholders in Montgomery County. And this legal document gives the names of each individual slave and all of their personal possessions and is dated February 1813.
APPRAISER: The date is crucial. Clearly we're dealing with a document here that records a period when slavery was still legal in this country.
GUEST: That's right.
APPRAISER: Let's open it up and have a look at the other pages. Over here, we have signatures of two witnesses or attorneys, apparently. And what's that one at the bottom there, first?
GUEST: The one on the bottom is the signature of Francis Scott Key.
APPRAISER: Who is famous for...?
GUEST: Writing the poem "The Star-Spangled Banner."
GUEST: And the signature just above it is that of Roger B. Taney, who was his brother-in-law. And they were in law practice together, and Roger B. Taney later became chief justice of the United States, most famously known for writing the Dred Scott decision.
APPRAISER: Yes, and the Dred Scott decision was a very key element in the history of slavery in this country-- a very controversial decision, a decision that Lincoln himself really thought was a terrible travesty on the law. But it is kind of fascinating to have a document like this. 1813, right around the time Francis Scott Key was writing what became the national anthem, and then a future chief justice of the Supreme Court involving the institution of slavery. How'd you come by the document?
GUEST: I purchased it from a friend for a couple hundred dollars 25 years ago.
APPRAISER: I think you made a pretty good buy.
GUEST: I've taken it to schools and nursing homes to share a little bit of history with them.
APPRAISER: That's great, so you've actually done some educating on your own with this document. Given the people who signed it and the nature of the document, I would appraise this at about $3,000.
GUEST: Ooh, my, I'm totally surprised.
APPRAISER: Well, good. We specialize in surprises here.
GUEST: Well, thank you.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.