I am working on a book about the business and personal relationships between Benjamin Franklin and printer James Parker. Among the areas I am exploring is their associations with the slave trade.
Obviously, as printers of newspapers, both would have profited from running ads for people looking to buy or sell slaves, or seeking the return of runaways. I have some questions, however, about how such transactions would have been carried out. Ads frequently asked the reader to "apply to the printer," or "enquire of the printer." I presume the printer was acting as a go-between. Would the advertiser pay for the ad space up-front or at the end? Would the printer receive a commission for a successful transaction?
In 1759, in a broadside protesting the New York provincial stamp tax, Parker added how printers in the city "cannot well teach Negroes our Trade; but [we] are obliged to work like Negroes, and in general are esteemed but little better, on many Accounts." It is a telling sentence. It is known Parker owned slaves in his native Woodbridge, New Jersey, and likely had servants for his three-story home and shop in New York City. I am curious to understand if and to what degree enslaved labor was used in the printing trade at the time, especially given the supply of apprentices and journeymen.
Additionally, there is evidence Parker may have been in New York for at least part of the so-called slave uprising on 1741 and Parker paid a debt to Franklin by sending him a slave named George.
Thanks in advance for any information or suggestions where I might find out more.