1850 - 1861
Prominent St. Louis slave trader Bernard M. Lynch used this oak cash box to secure the earnings from the various activities conducted out of his business, Lynch’s Slave Pen. Located on the northeast corner of Fifth and Myrtle Streets in the city’s commercial and government district, the brick building served as a slave market and jail, holding enslaved men, women, and children until they were sold, claimed, or transported. Lynch charged slaveholders 37 ½ cents per day for the board of those enslaved people held and 2 ½ percent of the sale price of each enslaved person sold from the building. Although it was not the only slave pen or trading business in St. Louis, it was one of the most lucrative and notorious. Lynch eventually expanded his operation to a second building.
In 1860, there were 115,000 enslaved people in Missouri, although most of those enslaved in the state were held on farms rather than larger plantations. Even so, slavery continued to be an important economic, political, and social force in the state on the eve of the Civil War. The economic significance of slavery is reflected in the robust trade in enslaved individuals both within Missouri and to the Deep South slave market. Due to the city’s location at the juncture of major river and railroad networks, St. Louis emerged as a hub in the domestic slave trade.
In September 1861, the Union army confiscated the building and converted it into the Myrtle Street Prison to imprison captured Confederate soldiers and southern sympathizing civilians who were arrested for acts of disloyalty against the federal government. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium currently occupies the land where Lynch’s slave pen once stood with only a small placard identifying the site as important to the history of slavery in Missouri.
Date: 1850 - 1861
Subject: Slavery; African Americans; Civil War, 1861-1865
Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society
Accession Number: 1915-043-0001
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Region: St. Louis Metro