The Garies and Their Friends
  • Publication Date: April 18, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554811519 / 1554811511
  • 416 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Garies and Their Friends

  • Publication Date: April 18, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554811519 / 1554811511
  • 416 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Unjustly overlooked in its own time, Frank J. Webb’s novel of pre-Civil War Philadelphia weaves together action, humor, and social commentary. The Garies and Their Friends tells the story of two families struggling for different sorts of respectability: the Garies, a well-to-do interracial couple who relocate to Philadelphia from the plantation South in order to legalize their marriage, and their friends the Ellises, free black Philadelphians hoping to make the move from the working class into the bourgeoisie. Along the way the families confront racialized violence, melodramatic villainy, and sentimental reversals. Entertaining and fast-moving, the novel has a Dickensian mix of uncanny coincidence and interwoven personal experiences.

The historical documents accompanying this Broadview Edition provide reviews of the novel along with extensive materials on slavery, the color line, and contemporary Philadelphia.


“This is an outstanding edition of Webb’s powerful (and still relatively neglected) novel about the struggles of the free black community in pre-Civil War Philadelphia. The editors make the bold decision to use as their source text the ‘Cheap Series’ paperback edition widely circulating in London, where The Garies and Their Friends was published in 1857. They provide reviews, new information about Webb, and compelling contextual materials that help us to better understand the novel in relation to key legal and social contexts. Webb has been wonderfully served by Howell and Walsh. I couldn’t imagine teaching any other edition, and the excellence of this edition should help to bring new readers to Garies.” — Robert S. Levine, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, and author of The Lives of Frederick Douglass

The Garies and Their Friends is one of the most interesting American novels of the mid-nineteenth century; the new Broadview edition finally gives it the editorial treatment it deserves. William Huntting Howell and Megan Walsh share supplemental documents essential to reading or teaching the novel, and they frame this work in a rich set of transatlantic contexts.” — Eric Gardner, author of Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture

“Frank Webb’s stunning novel comes alive in this accessible and informative edition edited by Howell and Walsh. The annotations are well crafted and will introduce readers to the broad racial, social, and literary contexts of Garies. The appendices are likewise well formulated to illuminate both the novel’s reception and its key geographic and legal coordinates. This wonderful edition is a boon for new readers and also for those who are already familiar with Webb’s novel.” — Jeffory Clymer, University of Kentucky, author of Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century

List of Illustrations
Frank J. Webb: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Garies and Their Friends

Appendix A: Contemporary Responses

  1. From The Observer (London) (20 September 1857)
  2. From the Literary Gazette (London) (26 September 1857)
  3. From The Morning Post (London) (6 October 1857)
  4. The Standard (London) (7 October 1857)
  5. From The Daily News (London) (9 October 1857)
  6. From the Athenaeum (London) (24 October 1857)

Appendix B: Law, Culture, and the Color Line

  1. From William Goodell, The American Slave Code in Theory and Practice (1853)
  2. From George M. Stroud, A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery (1827)
  3. From John F. Denny, An Enquiry into the Political Grade of the Free Colored Population (1834)
  4. From Benjamin C. Howard, Dred Scott v. John F.A. Sandford (1857)
  5. From Frederick Douglass, “The Dred Scott Decision,” delivered before the American Anti-Slavery Society, NY (14 May 1857)
  6. Edward Williams Clay, Life in Philadelphia, Plate IV (1829)

Appendix C: Black Philadelphia in the Antebellum Era

  1. Map of Philadelphia (1848)
  2. From A Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the People of Colour, of the City and Districts of Philadelphia (1842)
  3. From Robert Purvis, Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens, Threatened with Disenfranchisement, to the People of Pennsylvania (1838)
  4. From Joseph Willson, Sketches of the Higher Classes of Colored Society in Philadelphia (1841)
  5. Letter from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Lady Hatherton (24 May 1856)

Appendix D: Racism in Philadelphia

  1. From “The Philadelphia Riots,” the Philadelphia U. S. Gazette (2 August 1842)
  2. From History of Pennsylvania Hall (1838)
  3. John Sartain, The Burning of Pennsylvania Hall (1838)

Works Cited and Select Bibliography

William Huntting Howell is Assistant Professor of English at Boston University.

Megan Walsh is Assistant Professor of English at St. Bonaventure University..