Marleta Childs
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     Joseph Lee Boyle continues to focus on colonial compulsory workers in the Chesapeake region in his fourth compilation, “SLY AND ARTFUL ROGUES”: MARYLAND RUNAWAYS, 1775-1781. Like his previous volumes, his latest book includes data about white male and female colonists in the servitude category (for example, indentured servants, redemptioners, political exiles, and convicts) and black slaves during the period of the Revolutionary War.

     Boyle’s interesting and informative introduction gives a brief but detailed history of the utilization of white forced laborers and enslaved blacks in the American colonies. He points out that the transportation of servants and convicts into Maryland reached its height in the mid-eighteenth century. The war disrupted the arrival of additional servants. After 1781, the majority of new laborers were free whites and, of course, slaves.

     Other interesting facts he emphasizes are that eighty percent of the runaways were males. Most fugitives departed during the months of good weather, usually April through October. Non-British servants, such as Germans, usually did not run away because of the language barrier.

     Most colonial American newspapers regularly printed advertisements that offered rewards for the apprehension of runaways and/or notices about their capture. From twenty New England and Mid-Atlantic newspapers, Boyle gleaned all legible references pertaining to black and white escapees who lived in Maryland or had contacts there. (He did not include information from the Virginia Gazette since it is available online.) Items about runaways from Cecil County, Maryland, for instance, appear only in Pennsylvania newspapers due to Philadelphia’s relative proximity and the barrier of the Susquehanna River.

     Transcribing verbatim approximately 1,000 ads for the years 1775 - 1781, Boyle identifies between 3,000 and 4,000 runaways and their masters. Generally, the notices provide the names of runaways and of the person or persons offering the reward, the names of captured fugitives and who had them in custody, a location, and the name and date of the newspaper reference. Additional information—if any--varies from a few sentences to a long paragraph. Details may include the individual’s age, occupation, country of origin or nationality, a description of the clothes worn at the time of the escape, and a summary of his or her personality traits and physical appearance.

     The eighteenth-century newspaper notices and advertisements concerning runaways often furnish valuable information not found in other resources. Details in the ads may also supply clues for further investigation. An important research tool for genealogists seeking forebears in the Chesapeake area, “SLY AND ARTFUL ROGUES”: MARYLAND RUNAWAYS, 1775-1781 also provides fascinating reading about life in colonial America.

     The 481-page book has soft covers, an introduction, a bibliography for further reading, a list of the newspapers consulted by the author, and a full name index. To the book's price of $45.00, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order #8140) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website at

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