STOP 5 - Sydney H. Gay House

Sydney H Gay's House. 99 Davis Avenue, Staten Island. Image courtesy of the Staten Island Museum.

Sydney Howard Gay was an American attorney, journalist, and abolitionist who was active in New York City. Beginning in 1843, he was editor of The National Anti-Slavery Standard for 14 years. Gay's offices became a stop of the Underground Railroad, and he became very active in collaborating with others to help fugitive slaves reach freedom. Gay was the Station Master for New York City, and his office was a critical stop for fugitives traveling from Philadelphia to New Haven and Boston, or to Canada West via Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester.

Gay worked closely with free black Louis Napoleon and, for about two years, he kept a detailed record of the approximately 200 men he and Napoleon aided in what is known as the Record of Fugitives. Notably, he aided men coming from Philadelphia, and so some of his notes overlap materials by activist William Still, who published his own account in 1872. Gay's Record was not discovered among his papers at Columbia University until the early 21st century. Gay and Napoleon may have aided an estimated 3,000 refugees, helping many get to upstate New York and Canada. Gay aided three of history's most famous fugitives: Henry "Box" Brown, Jane Johnson, and Harriet Tubman.

His Record reveals just how large of an organization the Underground Railroad truly was, and the ways in which is was aided by hundreds of people from different walks of life.

Read about Sydney Howard Gay at:

Audio clips: Sydney H. Gay's railroad activities described by his Daughter (Mary Otis Willcox) read by Anastasia Bushey.

Sydney H Gay. Image courtesy of