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Henry Brown

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Henry Brown
Borncirca 1816
Louisa County, Virginia

Henry "Box" Brown (c.1816-after 1889) was a 19th-century Virginia slave who escaped to freedom by arranging to have himself mailed to Philadelphia abolitionists in a wooden crate after 33 years of slavery. For a short time he became a noted abolitionist speaker and later a showman doing escapes and magic.


In 1848, Brown escaped from slavery to Philadelphia in a box. Henry "Box" Brown, would became a popular speaker at antislavery meetings. He also began traveling with a panorama entitled "Mirror of Slavery", which included a trip to England as the Civil War began.

Magicians were often part of these touring shows and Brown became interested in their acts, especially in their escape tricks. After a time, Brown would add to his story of escaping slavery in a wooden crate by featuring his own escape act in which he was closed up in a large canvas sack wrapped around with a chain secured by a heavy padlock. Brown delighted crowds wherever he went by managing to free himself in minutes.

As time went on, Brown featured more and more magic in his program. Eventually, he created his own show, entitled "Mesmeric Entertainments" and toured with it successfully for a quarter century.

By 1875, Brown returned to the United States, billing himself as Professor H. Box Brown. He toured the Northeast with a program entitled "The African Prince's Drawing Room Entertainment."[1]

The date and location of his death are not known. The last record of Brown is a newspaper report of a performance by Brown at Brantford, Ontario, Canada dated February 26, 1889


  1. Conjure Times : Black Magicians in America by Jim Haskins, Kathleen Benson (2001)
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