Image Slave decks of the bark Wildfire, 1860

TLF ID M008725

This a black-and white engraving showing emaciated Africans on the slave decks of the ship Wildfire. Women are seen in the background on an upper deck, and in the foreground men and boys are crowded together. The engraving was published in Harper's Weekly on 2 June 1860. It was entitled 'The Africans of the slave bark "Wildfire." - (from our own correspondent.)' Its caption reads, 'THE SLAVE DECK OF THE BARK "WILDFIRE," BROUGHT INTO KEY WEST ON APRIL 30, 1860. - (FROM A DAGUERREOTYPE.)'

Educational details

Educational value
  • This engraving is a highly significant primary source for the year 9 history depth study elective Movement of peoples (1750-1901), which studies the influence of the industrial revolution on the movement of peoples throughout the world, including the transatlantic slave trade. The voyage of the Wildfire reveals much about how the Atlantic trade was conducted from US ports and the condition of slaves who survived the voyage.
  • The illegal US slaving vessel Wildfire was captured in April 1860 by the US Navy steamer Mohawk close to Cuba, its probable destination, on the third leg of a triangular voyage. In early 1860 it had set sail from New York for St Thomas in the Caribbean carrying calico and other cotton goods to sell. Its next leg was to the Congo River in north-western Africa to pick up slaves. Here a new deck was installed in the hold, creating a cramped space with only 1.2 m of clearance.
  • The Africans seen here are some of the 510 survivors of the third leg, Africa to the Americas. According to the Harper's Weekly correspondent, experienced observers assessed the slaves as being in much better condition than usual. The vessel was not overcrowded for a slaver. It had capacity for 1,000. When it set sail from the Congo in March 1860 there were 615 captives on board, 450 on deck, the rest below. The mortality rate of slightly more than 15 per cent for the five-week voyage was seen as particularly low.
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.