Happy Birthday Frederick Douglass!

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Advertisement, Village Record 14 July, 1863

Do you love to place your feet where the great people of the past have stood? Then you will love to take the Frederick Douglass Tour, a new free app created by Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) in partnership with Let’s Build a Time Machine.  It is in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth on February 14th.

This tour answers the questions of when and where Frederick Douglass visited Chester County. It presents original manuscripts, photographs and newspaper articles that document Douglass’ visits to the county.

Douglass visited Chester County during significant moments of his life – as an abolitionist risking his freedom to spread the Anti-Slavery message, as a celebrator of the Emancipation Proclamation and as a life-long activist giving his last public speech.

The earliest visit was in 1843, when Douglass was on an anti-slavery speaking tour organized by William A. White and William Lloyd Garrison.  We only know Douglass was here through an entry in the personal diary of David Evans, a Willistown farmer and abolitionist who attended the meeting.  His appearances were not advertised since slave catchers were on the look-out for him at that time. It wasn’t until 1848 that supporters in England purchased Douglass’ freedom.

During the Civil War Douglass actively recruited men for the newly formed Colored Troops. Two of his sons were in the 54th Massachusetts. Douglass appeared at Horticultural Hall (today CCHS’s Museum building) on July 14, 1863 and inspired many local residents to volunteer.

The tour will take you to some unexpected sites in West Chester, Kennett Square, Paoli, Willistown and Avondale.  Yes, Avondale was the site of a big celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation after the Civil War on September 22, 1865.

Douglass made his very last personal appearance in West Chester at West Chester State Normal School – today West Chester University – just two weeks before he died in 1895.

Users can install the Time Machine Tours app on both Android and iOS devices at the links below. The app includes an interactive map, photographs, and manuscript reproductions. Users can select locations on the map to view the associated image. Select the information "i" icon to open each image's caption. Users can also navigation from an image to the related caption to the linked map location. 

Get the app for Android

Get the app for iOS

Watch this blog page for fascinating stories on the history of CCHS' Frederick Douglass daguerreotype and the quest for the history on Douglass' visits to Chester County.