The New York Times
Unsigned Reprint
5 August 1882



From the Indianapolis Times, Aug. 3

   It has long been rumored, and by many believed, that Mrs. Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," drew the character of Uncle Tom from an old Negro who formerly lived here, and whom she met during her visits to her brother, the Rev. H. W. Beecher, while he resided in this city. In order to verify the story, if true, the editor of the Times wrote to Mrs. Stowe, calling her attention to the matter and asking for a statement of facts in regard to the origin of the character of Uncle Tom. Following is her reply:

SACO, July 27, 1882

  DEAR SIR: In reply to your inquires, I will say that the character of Uncle Tom was not the biography of any one man. The first suggestion of it came to me while in Walnut Hills, Ohio. I wrote letters for my colored cook to her husband, a slave in Kentucky. She told me that he was so faithful his master trusted him to come alone and unwatched to Cincinnati to market his farm produce. Now this, according to the laws of Ohio, gave the man his freedom, since if any master brought or sent his slave into Ohio he became free, de facto. But she said her husband had given his word as a Christian to his master that he would not take advantage of the law—his master promising him his freedom. Whether he ever got it or not I know not. It was some four or five years after when the Fugitive Slave law made me desirous of showing what slavery was, that I conceived the plan of writing the history of a faithful Christian slave. After I had begun the story I got, at the Anti-slavery Rooms in Boston, the autobiography of Josiah Henson, and introduced some of its most striking incidents into my story. The good people of England gave my simple, good friend Josiah enthusiastic welcome as the Uncle Tom of the story, though he was alive and well and likely long to live, and the Uncle Tom of the story was buried in a martyr’s grave. So much in reply to your inquiries. I trust this plain statement may prevent my answering any more letters on this subject. Truly yours,