On the History of Self-Smuggling

Published:July 24, 2015 by Brendan Wolfe

 

Atlas Obscura presents “The Strangely Successful History of People Mailing Themselves in Boxes,” a very clickable story that includes the tale of Henry Box Brown, a Richmond slave who had himself shipped to Philadelphia.

When we first wrote our entry on Brown years ago, we used similar phrasing, i.e., he mailed himself. An alert reader suggested that it would have been difficult, once he was packed up and ready to go, for Brown to have mailed himself. In fact, he had accomplices, one of whom did the actual mailing.

Anyway, read the article to learn about other self-smugglers, including Reg Spiers, who later became the subject of a book: Out of the Box: The Highs and Lows of a Champion Smuggler. Brown, meanwhile, if he wasn’t able to ship himself, exactly, did write his own books

IMAGE: Detail from a ca. 1849 broadside that also contains the lyrics to a song Henry Brown claimed to have sung upon reaching freedom in Philadelphia (Library of Congress)