The Man Who Shipped Himself to Freedom

henry box brownHenry “Box” Brown was born into slavery in Louisa County, Virginia in 1815. He was put to work in a tobacco factory for awhile as a young man. Later he returned to the plantation and married a woman named Nancy, who was owned by a slave master on an adjacent plantation. She was pregnant with their fourth child when, in 1848, Nancy and his children were sold to a plantation in North Carolina. He could only wish them a tearful last farewell, as he was helpless to save them.


After months of mourning his loss, Henry resolved to escape from slavery. He enlisted the help of James Caesar Anthony Smith, a free Black who knew Samuel Alexander Smith, a white sympathizer. Samuel Smith liked to gamble and, for a profit, agreed to help Henry Brown with his plan. The plan that Henry envisioned was for himself to be shipped in a box by rail from Richmond to Philadelphia, a very creative, unique, and dangerous endeavor.

Samuel Alexander Smith in turn contacted James Miller McKim, a white abolitionist and member of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. Samuel Alexander Smith shipped Henry by Adams Express Company on March 23, 1849, in a box 3 feet long by 2 feet 8 inches deep by 2 feet wide, and sent the box as “dry goods.”  Henry Brown traveled in the box lined with baize, a coarse woolen cloth, carrying with him only one bladder of water and a few biscuits. There was a hole cut in the box for air, and it was nailed and tied with straps; in large words, “This side up” was written on the box. Brown traveled by a variety of wagons, railroads, steamboats, ferries, and finally, for added safety, a delivery wagon that brought the box to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society before daybreak.

During the 27 hour journey, the box was turned upside down on several occasions and handled roughly.  Nonetheless, the box with Brown inside was received by William Still, James Miller McKim, Professor C.D. Cleveland, and Lewis Thompson.  Upon the box being opened, Brown said, “How do you do, Gentlemen?” then recited a psalm: “I waited patiently on the Lord and He heard my prayer.” He then began to sing the psalm to the delight of the four men present, and was christened Henry “Box” Brown.

Samuel Alexander Smith attempted to ship more enslaved from Richmond to Philadelphia on May 8, 1849, but was discovered and arrested. In November of that year, he was sentenced to six-and-one-half years in the state penitentiary. James Caesar Anthony Smith, the free Black, was also arrested on September 25 for attempting another shipment of slaves, but he fared better. The trial that followed resulted in a divided panel of magistrates, and James Caesar Anthony Smith was released and later joined Brown in Boston. 


The abolitionist movement of the day held two opposing points of view. Frederick Douglass made it clear that Henry Brown’s escape should not be made public, as others could use this same method. However, others thought that the publicity would help the movement, and that it was just too good a story to keep from the growing number of the public who opposed slavery.

Henry Brown was his own man and a working class individual. He used this event to make a new life for himself. He also used his great imagination to support himself. In May 1849, Henry appeared before the New England Anti-Slavery Society Convention in Boston, where he left no doubt in the minds of the audience that the enslaved desired freedom. Brown also became a performer, often reciting the psalm he had sung when he first emerged from the box. In September 1849, the narrative of Henry “Box” Brown was published in Boston by Charles Stearns.

Henry “Box” Brown again showed his creativity late in 1849 when he hired artists and others to begin work on a moving panorama about slavery. In April 1850 Henry “Box” Brown’s “Mirror of Slavery” opened in Boston and was exhibited throughout the summer. With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act on August 30, 1850, it was no longer safe for Brown to remain in the Northern Free States, as he could be captured and returned to Virginia. So in October 1850 he sailed for England. His panorama was exhibited throughout England. In May 1851, Brown’s own “First English Edition” of the narrative of his life was published in Manchester.

Brown began to be criticized over finances and for not trying harder to purchase his own family. Thus, Brown left the abolitionist circuit completely and embraced English show business for the next 25 years. He married in 1859, and in 1875, accompanied by his wife and daughter Annie, he returned to the United States. He performed as a magician and continued to climb into his original box as part of his act throughout the eastern United States.

Brown’s last performance is reported to have taken place in Brantford, Ontario, Canada as stated in a Brantford newspaper on February 26, 1889. No later information on Henry “Box” Brown and his family has been discovered. The date and location of his death are unknown.

Fiber Fix, The Better Duct Tape

A BYU student is getting a lot of attention for his new product that came on the market earlier this year. He claims the product can permanently fix all kinds of things whether they are wood, metal or plastic — and it is flying off store shelves.

FIBERFIXSpencer Quinn, 24, says he’s invented the world’s strongest repair wrap — a product that’s effective where duct tape fails: under water, under heavy impact and with heavy loads.

“Everyone knows duct tape, but everyone knows duct tape isn’t the perfect fix for a lot of problems,” Quinn, founder of Fiber Fix, said.

Quinn says Fiber Fix is a permanent fix for almost anything that needs to be repaired.

“Anytime you have a broken item, all you have to do is dip (Fiber Fix) tape in water, wrap it around the broken item, wait five to ten minutes, and you have a permanent long lasting repair,” Quinn said.

Quinn says the possible uses for Fiber Fix are nearly endless.

“Anything from outdoor equipment, to emergency plumbing repairs, yard tools, sports equipment, automotive repairs. You can even use it on household furniture because you can sand and paint Fiber Fix,” Quinn said.

If you’ve ever had a broken yard tool, you know duct tape is not a very good long term solution. You quickly need to get a new tool. But the makers of Fiber Fix say this repair is as good as new and maybe even stronger.

“We market it as it hardens like steel,” Quinn said. “It’s 100 times stronger than duct tape.”

When asked to prove that claim, Quinn Fiberfixed two 2-by-2-inch boards together to make a hammer and it was strong enough to break a cinder block.

Fiber Fix hit the first store shelves in February and it’s already in more than 1,600 retail locations.

“That includes Ace Hardware, True Best, Handy Hardware,” Quinn said. “We’ve gotten into the Home Depot.”

For this BYU student, it’s been a whirlwind.

“It’s flying off the shelves,” Quinn said. “We’ve been replenishing some of these guys every two weeks.”

The Eerie Side of Abraham Lincoln

lincoln* According to legend, shortly after Lincoln was elected to his first term in 1860, he saw a double image of himself while gazing in a mirror at his Illinois home. One was his normal reflection, the other a pale double. Mrs. Lincoln didn’t see the second image, but was convinced that it was a sign. The sharper image, she said, represented Lincoln completing his first term; the other was a sign that he would be reelected, but would die before completing his second term. 


* As Lincoln began his first term, the nation was on the verge of the Civil War. In the midst of trying to reunify the divided country, Lincoln faced a terrible personal tragedy -his 11-year-old son, Willie, died from a fever in 1862. A grief-stricken Mrs. Lincoln conducted seances in the hope of contacting the boy. Although the skeptical president never participated in the seances, historians say his wife’s belief in the supernatural may have eventually rubbed off on him. 



* Lincoln suffered restless nights filled with nightmares and premonitions of his own death. He once told his wife about a dream where he was asleep, then was woken by the sound of someone crying. He went to the East Room and found the source of the sobs: mourners and a casket. He asked a woman, “Who died?” “The assassinated president,” she told him. Lincoln walked over to the casket and saw himself inside.


* Several months later, on the morning of April 14, 1865, Lincoln called an emergency meeting of the Cabinet and delivered a cryptic message: “Expect important news soon. I have had a dream,” he told them. “I am on a boat, alone in the ocean. I have no oars, no rudder. I am helpless.” That evening, while attending a play at Ford’s Theater, Lincoln was shot from behind by John Wilkes Booth; he died the next morning at 7:22 AM.

What appears to a ghostly image of Lincoln with his wife Mary after his death

What appears to a ghostly image of Lincoln with his wife Mary after his death