Business and Commerce


Who was an early bookseller of importance?

David Ruggles (1810–1849) was the first known black bookseller and the first black to have an imprint in a book, when he published The “Extinguisher” Extinguished in 1834. From 1829 to 1833 Ruggles was a grocer and butter merchant in New York. He opened his bookstore the next year, selling anti-slavery works and stationery and engaging in a variety of publishing tasks, including the composition of letters for those who were unable to write. His New York City shop was unfortunately burned out by a white mob in September 1835, fueled no doubt by his activities as an active abolitionist and worker on the Underground Railroad. The destruction did not stop Ruggles. He continued to live at the same address and to maintain his status as an anti-slavery advocate and agent for abolitionist papers. He was a secretary of the New York Vigilance Committee and was noteworthy for his aggressive and daring activities on behalf of former slaves. When his health began to fail, Ruggles spent his last years as a hydrotherapist and is believed to have been the first black hydrotherapist. He was arrested twice, once for assault and later in connection with a case in which a former slave was accused of theft. In the latter case, which occurred during 1839, he stood accused of a major crime for seventeen months before he was discharged without a trial.


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