“Restless Progress in America”: Drawing the Mason-Dixon Line

“When I found I had crossed that line,” recalled Harriet Tubman, “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything . . . I felt like I was in Heaven.” Such was the power of the Mason-Dixon Line. Within 75 years of its completion to resolve an eight-decade-long dispute between two colonial proprietors, a boundary line drawn in the 1760s by two English...
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Doing Time in Dauphin County, 1842-1901

They locked up Elias Nation on April 18, 1842, giving him official first place in Dauphin County’s new prison. (For the record, Jacob Stripe was registered nearly two weeks earlier, for assault and battery, but he was out before the prison’s grand opening.) Nation was twenty­-nine years old and looked “yellow,” wrote Keeper Wil­liam Watson; he underlined that fact in his...
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Finding Sanctuary at Montrose

On Friday afternoon, April 9, 1842, William Smith, a slave owned by a Maryland widow, sought shelter in her manor house from the teeming rain. He was drenched after having toiled all morning in the inclement weather. As he stood drying by the stove, one of the widow’s young sons berated him. “What are you doing in here,” snapped the youngster. “You stand there happy as a lord. You don’t belong...
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