@Article{ cole2011,
    author = {Stephanie Cole},
    title = {Servants and Slaves in Louisville: Race, Ethnicity, and Household Labor in an Antebellum Border City},
    journal = {Ohio Valley History},
    volume = 11,
    number = 1,
    month = {Spring},
    pages = {3--25},
    year = 2011,

Cole argues that there was a market for both enslaved and free “House Servants” in antebellum Louisville by the late 1830s. There was also a shift towards white women publicly taking on the role of staffing positions in their homes, with women’s names often appearing on advertisements.

p. 3: By 1840, 15 percent of Louisville’s black population was free

p. 4:

A close reading of newspaper want ads, public records left by census enumerators and court reporters, and private correspondence and account books of border city housekeepers suggests that urbanization and the intensification of the market economy altered the work done within southern urban households—although not at the uniform pace earlier studies of the decline of household production implied. More significantly, urban economic growth transformed the domestic servant labor pool even in this slave economy and “southern” housekeepers proved remarkably willing to adapt to those changes. They looked beyond the legal status of potential domestics and considered free and enslaved women when hiring adults, and often ignored adults altogether in favor of youths, whom they believed more tractable and inexpensive.

p. 5: limited impact of inventions on housework

p. 6: no public water works until October 1860—water had to be hauled on a daily basis

p. 8: “Even in wealthy, modernizing, urban households, workloads for domestics remained heavy.”

p. 9: “For Louisville, at least, the legality of slavery did not mean housekeepers focused entirely on slaves. While newspaper advertisements continued to offer slaves with domestic skills for hire or sale, Irish and German immigrant women found employment in the city’s middle-class households.”

p. 10: “Throughout the antebellum period, slave hiring played a significant part in Louisville’s domestic labor market. Not only did slaves for hire dominate newspaper ads for domestics, but the city held on to the traditional custom of ‘hiring day.’ The intersection of Fourth and Market Streets ‘presented a busy scene’ each January 2, according to one newspaper account from 1855, as ‘thousands of men and women servants gathered to be hired for the ensuing year.’”

p. 12-13: Notes changing composition of Louisville hotel staffs, including Louisville Hotel, away from slaves owned by the proprietors and towards “hired out” slaves and immigrant domestics

p. 14: “Housekeepers in the Falls City pursued a variety of hiring strategies, and looking increasingly to wage laborers in the late antebellum period”

p. 17: “By the 1850s slaves prices had skyrocketed because of the demand for labor in the booming cotton regions of the Southwest, and anyone interested in affordable household slaves found maintaining connections with slave hirers essential. Male and female slaves generally cost between eight hundred and one thousand dollars, and could bring as much as fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars. … Newcomers without connections could expect, conservatively, to pay at least eighty dollars a year to hire an adult slave woman, as well as furnish clothes and healthcare for her.”