1820 Manuscript Receipt Signed by German Slave Trader Dr. Daniel Botefeur for Payment of Goods by Dr. William Frost in Havana, Cuba

1820 Manuscript Receipt Signed by German Slave Trader Dr. Daniel Botefeur for Payment of Goods by Dr. William Frost in Havana, Cuba

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On offer is an extraordinary, unique document with direct ties to the Cuban-African slave trade, signed by the “notorious villain and slave dealer”, Dr. Daniel Botefeur (sometimes Botifeur) (1770-1821) originally of Hannover, Germany. 

The document reads: 

“Havana December 2nd 1820 Received from Doct Wm Frost Two Thousand and Twenty Eight Dollars 6 eighths being for 55 Bags Coffee sold him, with Export Duty and Shipping charges $2028 6/8 Daniel Botefeur”

There are mathematical calculation notes made in pencil beneath the receipt, likely by Dr. William Frost.

ABOUT DR. DANIEL BOTEFEUR (1770-1821): Born in Hannover, Germany, Dr. Botefeur came to Bunce Island/The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and later the Pongo River. He arrived in approximately 1800, first working as a doctor. He invested his wealth from his work as a physician into ships, which he used to transport slaves. According to BlackCentralEurope.com, which bases its report on the work of Zeuske, a researcher who traced Botefeur’s movements, “When the British and Americans officially ended their participation in the slave trade in 1807/08 , Botefeur was in a good position to fill in the gap they left behind. He continued financing ships that dodged the Royal Navy’s West African Squadron…”. In 1815, Botefeur and his favourite slave, Roberto (Robin), moved to Cuba. Botefeur was a founder of a system that united Portuguese and Spanish slave merchants in Cuba, Cadiz and Barcelona as well as a group of British and American physicians who owned slaves (Zeuske, 2016). In Cuba, he married well above his station due to his successes in the slave trade. His Cuban wife, Maria, had five children with him (Dr. Botefeur also had at least six African children prior to arriving in Cuba, all of whom he sent to African missionary schools). He died in either 1821, according to Michael Zeuske, the premier researcher on Dr. Botefeur (a death year of 1828 is indicated elsewhere). 

A chilling summary of Botefeur’s cruelty is summarized in a journal entry of Captain Edward H.. Columbine, and published on Black Central Europe:

“During my absence, six natives had arrived in a ship’s boat, having escaped from that notorious villain & slave-dealer Botefeur; a German who has a sort of factory in the R. Pongo. He also has a brig on the Coast (which we have been in quest of) but he has eluded our search by hiding her in some of the innumerable branches of the Pongo & other rivers. Lately he has moved her near to Bissao, where he means to ship his wretched victims & proceed to the Havanna. Slaves in the usual course of barbarity being scarce, owing to the appearance which I have had the happiness of inflicting on the dealers; Botefeur to supply the deficiency, has thought proper to put all his domestic slaves into the chain, (a villainy which even African law does not admit) & amongst others was conveying these six young men to his brig. But they ran when the two white men in the boat near the Nunez & brought her hither. Allowing the white men to escape. I shall certainly afford the protection of the colony to these poor fellows” 

[Source, as cited by BlackCentrualEurope.com: Journal of Captain Edward H. Columbine,” University of Illinois at Chicago Special Collections, Sierra Leone Collection MSSL__69, box 3, folder 12].


Black Central Europe. Daniel Botefeur a German Slave Trader. Retrieved from https://blackcentraleurope.com/sources/1750-1850/daniel-botefeur-a-german-slave-trader-1811/

Zeuske, M. (2018). Del reino de Hannover a Cuba y Estados Unidos, pasando por el infierno de la trata en Senegambia y en el Atlántico: el médico y negrero alemán Daniel Botefeur 1770-1821. In Caribe hispano y Europa: siglos XIX y XX: dos siglos de relaciones (pp. 47-82). 

Zeuske, M. (2016). Cosmopolitas del Atlántico esclavista: los "africanos" Daniel Botefeur y su esclavo de confianza Robin Botefeur en Cuba. The Almanack, 129-155.

ABOUT DR. WILLIAM FROST (1781-1823): Dr. Frost was born in Eliot, Maine, near the New Hampshire border, and was the sixth son of Brig. General Frost. He was a surgeon in Kittery and Portland Maine and the US Navy, discharged under the peace settlement on July 14, 1811. He then worked as a surgeon in Demarra, Cuba. He married Elizabeth Walker Keating (1789-1811) of Maine  in 1805. Dr. Frost died at his estate, Silencio, near Matanzas, Cuba, May 7, 1823. [Source: https://www.seekingmyroots.com/members/files/G002368.pdf]

PROVENANCE: For over 30 years, this autographed document was held in the personal collection of the USA’s longest-standing autograph and manuscript dealers, who are still in business. It was originally acquired from an estate auction in New Hampshire run by Martin Willis of Willis Auction Service in 1989. 

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