A Time of Confluence

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In 1847 (two years after the Anthonys moved to Rochester) Frederick Douglass settled nearby and began publishing his abolitionist paper The North Star (later called Frederick Douglass’ Paper).

Although he had established his writing and speaking career in New Bedford (near Boston), his rising fame threatened or inspired jealousy in some of the luminaries of the movement—most notably William Lloyd Garrison—so he set out in search of a new home.

According to Rochester writer Victoria Sandwick Schmitt, the upstate New York city seemed like a good place for Douglass to settle because:

  • It was a young and fast-growing city suitable for a new venture for the following reasons:
  • It was home to an active, enterprising, free African American community.
  • It was a hotbed of reform movements, including abolitionism.
  • It was home to a community of Quakers who embraced abolition and racial equality.
  • Its location near Canada made it a critical site on the Underground Railroad.”

(See Victoria Sandwick Schmitt, “Rochester’s Frederick Douglass” in Rochester History, 8/28/05, p. 12.)

In addition to the favorable socio-economic climate that attracted Douglass to publish his paper in downtown Rochester, the city has a beneficial water feature, as well. Douglass found an office in the Talman Building, located where where an aqueduct carried the Erie Canal over the Genesee River, providing two water routes for fleeing slaves to approach the city. Douglass’ offices for the North Star occupied the Southwest corner of that building, and two floors below him the building’s back door opened onto the water. Douglass’ son recalled that many mornings when his father went into work, he would find fugitives resting on the steps of the building.

Across the street from the Talman Building sat the Reynolds Arcade, one of America’s first indoor shopping malls where you could get everything from a haircut and a cup of coffee to dry goods and the latest news from the telegraph. The Rochester City Directory lists both Daniel Anthony Sr. and his son Daniel Read Anthony as selling insurance on the ground floor of the Arcade. About two blocks away lived Amy and Isaac Post, some of the most active abolitionists in the city of Rochester.

Next time: more on the Talman Building

 

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