The Octagon House

On Saturday, we went to the Octagon House and the Shaker village. The Octagon House is the kind of place that you’d think wouldn’t exist any more. It’s too…too…exactly what it is, reeking of tobacco smoke and lost causes. And yet, what became clear to me walking around it is that a lot of the horrors of history get lost when the preservers of those horrors learn to be ashamed of the preservation.


This is the back of the Octagon House.


The Confederacy is not dead inside. Which, I think, is fitting, since the owner was a huge confederate sympathizer and hid guerrilla fighters in his house and in tunnels leading from the house.


But this, this I had never seen before and did not know was a thing. These are the metal tags–literally dog tags–that slaves who often had to leave plantations wore so that white people would know where and to whom they belonged.


4 thoughts on “The Octagon House

  1. I noticed those dog tags in “Twelve Years a Slave” (which I finally watched two weeks ago) but wasn’t familiar with them – interesting to seem them here, to confirm what the film included was common. And it makes sense — well, in grotesque thinking like a slave owner sense — even though I always get lost in really terrifying thoughts about how bad things must have been to prevent people from just slipping them off and running away.

  2. I think that the slave tags they have displayed are fakes. In three out of the four cases, they look like “fantasy tags” to me. The Charleston one is in the right style (punched, not engraved) but looks a little big. There was a big nostalgia market for these in the early 20th century and lots of fakes were circulated so now they are genuinely old but still not authentic. The engraved ones are almost all modern fakes — coming from places like Mississippi and Georgia, which typically didn’t use these.

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