In 1928, Harry Dane, chief clerk in the Erie County Probate Court, donated the book The Public Life of Captain John Brown to the Sandusky Library.
The preface states that the title was the 41st edition of James Redpath’s biography of John Brown. An association of African American residents in Sandusky was responsible for securing the reprinting of this edition, which was published locally by the Kinney Brothers in 1872. (John C. Kinney and Addison D. Kinney were also the publishers of the Sandusky Journal.) Profits from the sale of the book were to be devoted to the erection of a monument to John Brown, the radical abolitionist. Despite their efforts, the monument was never built.
James Redpath was born in Scotland. After coming to America as a young man, he became an author, editor, and social reformer. He ran the Boston Lyceum Bureau which was an agency that booked popular lecturers, such as Mark Twain and Susan B. Anthony. Redpath became a friend of John Brown, and shared his abolitionist sentiments. During the Civil War, James Redpath traveled throughout the Southern states interviewing slaves. He published the book The Roving Editor in 1859, based on his travels. He grew to despise slavery as a result of his experiences in the South.
No documents have survived which would have provided us with the names of the Sandusky residents who were responsible for the 1872 reprinting of The Public Life of Captain John Brown. By doing an advanced search in Ancestry Library Edition, over 100 names of African American residents are listed in Sandusky, residing primarily in Wards 2, 3, and 4 of the city. Many Erie County residents throughout the years were active in antislavery activities, including helping fugitive slaves make their way to freedom in Canada via the Underground Railroad. A sculpture honoring Sandusky’s efforts in the Underground Railroad was dedicated in November, 2007.