Germantown: Investigating Servant Life at Historic House

Laura Keim fielded questions from the audience regarding research on the lives of Stenton servants.

Stenton is one of several well-preserved historic homes in Germantown, but the lives of the slaves and servants who worked at the property are a mostly unknown part of the area’s history.

Laura Keim fields questions from the audience regarding research on the lives of Stenton servants.

An event called “Exploring the Evidence: Uncovering the Lives of the Forgotten Servants,” which took place last Saturday, was curator Laura Keim’s attempt at unlocking that part of the house’s past.

“Many of our visitors are still surprised to think about the fact that Quakers owned slaves, particularly early on in Philadelphia’s settlement,” Keim said. “So we tend to think about Quakers and slavery through the lens of abolition, but really just looking back at the merchants and who owned slaves and how they were getting here is a whole other question.”

Keim said there is an important distinction to be made between the plantations worked by enslaved Africans in the South and the slaves who worked at Stenton in the 18th century. “What we learned about the way [William Penn’s secretary] James Logan ran the property was that it was two separate tented farms, a mill and 10 other laborers, some of whom were enslaved Africans, some of whom were indentured servants,” she said.

After a free talk and slide show with the visitors, Keim took the audience on a tour of Stenton which focused on slave life at the property.

The presentation featured ledgers which detail inventory and payments, including those of the servants.

Stenton is located at 4601 N. 18th St. For tour and event information call 215-329-7312 or visit and

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.