Robert F. Wallcut

An old white man with thin white hair wearing a black bow-tie, white collared shirt, and a dark coat
Abolitionist Robert F. Wallcut served as the General Agent of The Liberator.

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Quick Facts
Abolitionist and General Agent of the Liberator
Place of Birth:
Nantucket, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
March 16, 1797
Place of Death:
Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Death:
March 1, 1884
Place of Burial:
Forrest Hills Cemetery

Printer Robert F. Wallcut played an integral role in Boston's abolition movement and Underground Railroad network.

Born in 1797, Wallcut grew up in Nantucket, Massachusetts with parents Benjamin and Elizabeth. Little is known about his early life, however, newspaper articles and his obituary provide some information. In 1817 he graduated from Harvard College with other well known Bostonians such as Reverend Samuel J. May and Samuel E. Sewall.1 Wallcut also served as a Unitarian minister throughout Massachusetts, and in 1832 he married Mary Ann Powers.2

Embracing a life of activism in the 1840s, Wallcut supported anti-slavery and social justice causes. He participated in the Massachusetts Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and the New England Non-Resistance Society, while also acting as the Recording Secretary of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society for over a decade.3 Most notably, Wallcut held the position of General Agent for The Liberator from 1846 to its final edition in 1865.4 In this role, Wallcut facilitated aid to freedom seekers and anti-slavery causes by frequently directing his readers to send thier contributions to him at The Liberator office at 21 Cornhill.

For example, following the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Wallcut issued a call to action in The Liberator. In "To the Friends of the Fugitive," he wrote:

Alarmed at the operation of the new Fugitive Slave Law, the Fugitives from slavery are pressing Northward…They are coming to us in increasing numbers, and they look to us for aid. Oppressed by the tyranny of a heartless and God-defying government, who will help them? Their first and most earnest desire is for employment…Help us, then, all you who are friends of the fugitive, to extend to them this charity, this simple justice. Let all, who know, or can learn of places which may be filled by these men, women and youths, information by letter or otherwise, to Robert F. Wallcut, or Samuel May, Jr., 21 Cornhill, Boston…this appeal is made to you. Cannot you find, or procure, one or more places where the hunted slave may abide securely, and work through the winter? … Many of the fugitives come very poorly provided with clothing; and those who have garments of any kind to spare, will be sure to confer them on the suffering and needy by sending them, marked “For fugitives,” at 21 Cornhill, as above.”5

His publishing work extended beyond The Liberator. Wallcut also published several works by prominent Boston abolitionists. These included William Cooper Nell’s Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, one of the first published African American history books, and William I. Bowditch’s The Rendition of Anthony Burns.

In addition to his work as a printer and agent for The Liberator, Wallcut also served in the Boston Vigilance Committee, a group dedicated to fugitive assistance. According to the records of the Vigilance Committee, Wallcut assisted 44 named freedom seekers and an untold number of “fugitives” and “children” with board, clothing, and fares to Canada. For example, in June 1854, the Vigilance Committee reimbursed Wallcut for “Alfred Perkins. Mrs Wilson & child & Mr Foster & John Jones fares to Canada & sundries.”6 He also provided furniture and financial assistance to the famed freedom seeker Jane Johnson

Along with Austin Bearse, Wallcut helped reunite father and daughter freedom seekers George and Lizzie Lewis at Henry Thacker’s House on Southac Street.7 He also escorted abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe to the safe house run by Lewis and Harriet Hayden where she met thirteen freedom seekers living there in 1853.8 At this time and throughout the 1850s, Walcutt lived at 9 Columbia Street.

The final edition of The Liberator, published after the Civil War, records what may be his final public statement, as no newspaper records, except his obituary, have been located beyond 1865 regarding Wallcut. In this publication, Robert F. Wallcut, the “honored and faithful General Agent” who put “his heart in his work,”9 wrote to editor William Lloyd Garrison reflecting on the work of The Liberator:

The Liberator has ministered spiritual food and moral strength … to all of us. Its record is now to be sealed up. Who of us will not sorely miss it? How few more than I!10


  1. "Obituary," Boston Herald, March 2, 1884.
  2. "Obituary," Boston Herald, March 2, 1884; “Ordination at Berlin,” Christian Register (Boston, Massachusetts), February 13, 1830; “Ecclesiastical,” Christian Register, December 12, 1835; “Married,” Boston Christian Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), October 3, 1832.
  3. “New England Non-Resistance Society,” The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts), December 18, 1846; “Constitution and Officers of the Massachusetts Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment,” The Liberator, January 31, 1845; “Action of the Board of Managers,” The Liberator, July 10, 1846; “Tribute of Respect,” The Liberator, May 6, 1859.
  4. “Special Notice,” The Liberator, March 13, 1846.
  5. “To the Friends of the Fugitive,” The Liberator, October 18, 1850.
  6. Account Book of Francis Jackson, Treasurer The Vigilance Committee of Boston, Dr. Irving H. Bartlett collection, 1830-1880, W. B. Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives, 28,
  7. Austin Bearse, Reminiscences of the Fugitive Slave Days in Boston (Boston: Warren Richardson, 1880), 10,
  8. Bearse, Reminiscences of the Fugitive Slave Days in Boston, 8.
  9. “In discontinuing the Liberator,” The Liberator, December 29, 1865.
  10. "A parting word from the honored and faithful General Agent of the Liberator," The Liberator, December 29, 1865.

Boston African American National Historic Site

Last updated: January 10, 2024