1873 California Published Slave Narrative

WILLIAMS, James. Life and Adventures of James Williams, A Fugitive Slave, With a Full Description of the Underground Railroad. San Francisco: Women's union Book and Job Printing Office, 1874. 

8vo (142 x 223 mm). 8 pages of allegorical engravings (light even toning.) Contemporary plain wrappers, front wrapper inscribed "Los Angeles / Feb. 18th, 1875" (light scuffs, wear to corners). 

Originally published economically in 1873 in Sacramento, an edition expanded to 108 pages was printed later the same year in San Franciso by the Women's Union Print. This edition is expanded further to 124 pages. The work details his early life and escape from slavery, reuniting with his fugitive mother in Pennsylvania. At the age of 16, he began working the Underground Railroad. His devotion to freeing his fellow man is evident as he includes the stories of several other escaped slaves in this book. The work also follows his move to California, trips to Mexico and British Columbia, the transcontinental railroad, his work with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Spiritualism, the Gold Rush, the Modoc War, and more. An interesting chapter “About Bigamy” briefly and sympathetically mentions Brigham Young and the burgeoning Mormon community in Salt Lake City. He also expresses progressive opinions upon both the Chinese and Irish populations in California, remarking, “Drive them out? Ah, my learned friends, are you not aware that California is a free country? It is part of the United States of America, and America throws open her doors for all nations.” An invaluable document of life in the western frontier. Very scarce. Howes W-456.

Estimate: $2,500 - $3,500
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

Internet Bidding

Have a Similar Item?

Consign With Us


Cowan’s cannot guarantee items paid for after November 25 will arrive before December 25. For expedited shipping, we recommend using a third-party shipper. 

Cowan’s Cincinnati Office offers an in-house, full-service shipping department which is unparalleled in the auction industry. Shipping costs are provided with your finalized invoice 24-48 hours after auction. For furniture and oversized items, we recommend using third-party services. For more information, click HERE or contact cowansshipping@hindmanauctions.com.  

NOTE: All pickups and preview are by appointment only. To make an appointment, please call 513-871-1670 or email cincinnati@hindmanauctions.com