Souls for Sale

Two German Redemptioners Come to Revolutionary America

Edited by Susan E. Klepp, Farley Grubb, Anne Pfaelzer de Ortiz

Hardback - £82.95

Publication date:

27 September 2006

Length of book:

288 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271028811

In 1773, John Frederick Whitehead and Johann Carl Büttner, two adolescent Germans, were placed on board the same ship headed to colonial America. With few options in Germany, each had been recruited by the labor contractors known popularly as soulsellers—men who traded in human cargo. On arrival in America they were sold to different masters, and, years later, each wrote a memoir of his experiences. These two autobiographies are valuable historical records of immigrant attitudes, perceptions, and goals. Despite their shared voyage to America and similar condition as servants, their backgrounds and personalities differed. Their divergent interpretations of their experiences provide rich firsthand insights into the transatlantic migration process, work and opportunity in colonial America, and the fates of former bound servants.

Souls for Sale presents these parallel accounts—Whitehead's published for the first time—to illustrate the condition of German redemptioners and to examine the religious, economic, familial, and literary contexts that shaped their memoirs. The editors provide helpful introductions to the works as well as notes to guide the reader.

“This volume will not only serve scholars of early American history and culture as key source material in the interpretation of the immigrant experience, but it should become assigned reading for American history or literature courses from the survey course up.”

—Patrick M. Erben, Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer