Solomon Harby

Exchange Street

Auctioneer and father of Isaac Harby

Solomon Harby (1762–1805), a native of London, was an auctioneer and commission merchant headquartered on Exchange Street, near the Cooper River waterfront. Like most such businessmen, he dealt in a wide range of goods including brandy, sugar, ox chains, linens, and calico; occasionally he bought and sold horses, real estate, ships, and also slaves. Advertisements bearing his name provide detailed information about the qualities and qualifications of the enslaved people he offered for sale: In 1800, he ran an ad for a “young likely mulatto girl, who is a good house servant, tolerable seamstress, and capable of taking care of children, to which she has been chiefly accustomed; she is perfectly sober and honest, and no runaway.” The next year he advertised “a Negro wench, with her two male children, the one a smart little boy, about six years old, the other about three. All sound and healthy. The wench is a stout able-bodied woman, a good plain cook, washer and ironer, and an excellent segar maker, to which business she has been particularly accustomed; she clothes, feeds and takes care of herself and children and pays eleven shillings per week wages, in which situation she would prefer remaining, if agreeable to her owner. She is sold for no fault whatever; warranted sound, sober, honest, and no runaway.”

Solomon Harby was only forty-two when he succumbed to a lingering illness, leaving a widow, Rebecca Moses Harby, and several children. Isaac, his seventeen-year-old eldest son, had already decided to pursue a career in education or the law instead of business, and had opened a small school on Edisto Island in order to support his mother and younger siblings. He was destined to become a prominent journalist, playwright, and founder of the Reformed Society of Israelites.

Auction notice for “a Negro wench, with her two male children”

Auction notice for “a Negro wench, with her two male children”

Charleston City Gazette, May 4, 1801.