Baltimore was one of the nation’s largest seaports by the early 19th century. In addition to receiving raw goods from the recently opened Northwest Territory (area northwest of the Ohio River) and shipping them around the world, it was also a major hub for the transport of enslaved people. Packet boats arrived regularly from the Eastern Shore with an array of products, including enslaved people to be sold to the many local traders. The enslaved would be sold from the ships or the nearby auction houses. Yates and Harrison (located on this wharf) was one of the auction houses on and near the docks that took advantage of the proximity to ships loaded with cargo. More than 20,000 people were “sold south” from here.
For more information on the growth of the slave trade in Baltimore, see General Wayne Inn entry.