ushistory logo<
buy a poster
ushistory logo

The President's House in Philadelphia

Joe (Richardson)

By Edward Lawler, Jr.

Evidence of Joe, a ninth enslaved African brought to the President's House, was uncovered in 2004. Washington mentions "Postilion Joe" in an October 19, 1795 letter, written toward the end of an 8-day journey from Mount Vernon to the capital. It can be inferred that Joe arrived in Philadelphia with the rest of the traveling party the following day. A postilion was a footman for the presidential coach, and Joe would have worked in the stables of the President's House and probably been housed between the kitchen and the stables. It is not known how long Joe was in Philadelphia.

There is no documentation for Joe's age. His inclusion as an adult in the 1786 Mount Vernon slave census implies that he was then over age 14. Joe's wife, Sall was born around 1769, and worked as a seamstress at Mount Vernon. Joe may have been about the same age. At the time he came to Philadelphia, they had three young sons — Henry, 7, Elijah, 3, and Dennis, 1.

Sall and their children were owned by George Washington and freed after the president's death. They took the surname "Richardson." Joe was a "dower," and would have been one of the 153 enslaved Africans inherited by Martha Washington's grandchildren after her death in 1802. It is not known which.

Although he remained enslaved, Joe and Sall Richardson managed to stay together and had at least seven children, all of whom were free. Two of their sons were working at Mount Vernon in 1835.

ushistory logo Facebookinstagram

Interested in using our content? Click here!

Copyright ©1999- by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as On the Internet since July 4, 1995.