Holed for suspension at the top, as always seen. The central number 103 has been hand engraved, also as typically seen, with CHARLESTON arcing above in a cartouche, at both ends of which is a single star. Below the central number is FISHER and the date 1812. The name of the badge's maker, LAFAR, is stamped on the back. Interestingly, silversmith John Joseph Lafar also served as the city marshal for Charleston for many years during to early to mid 19th century, which means that he not only made these badges, but also enforced their use.
This piece is of superior quality for a slave hire badge of any date or occupation, many examples of which are extensively corroded and/or were purposely damaged when discarded by their original owners. In stark contrast, the example that we are offering here still retains its full, original diamond shape with no evidence of ever having been bent and straightened. Both sides exhibit an even copper brown appearance that is much lighter and far more appealing than that seen in many other slave hire badges. A few concentrations of faint pin scratches are easily overlooked, and accuracy also compels us to mention scattered pitting from light corrosion on both sides, some of which are associated with light deposits of verdigris. We stress, however, that with much of the surface area smooth and distraction free, especially on the front, the quality of this piece is exceptional for the type.
The year 1812 is significant in that it represents the first use of diamond-shaped slave hired badges, which would eventually become the dominant design for these pieces until the end of the Civil War in 1865. In recent memory we have offered an 1844 Mechanic badge, an 1848 Fruiterer badge, an 1848 Charleston Neck Porter badge and, most recently, an 1857 Servant badge. This is the first Fisher badge that this cataloger (JLA) has ever handled, which is not surprising since this occupation is one of the rarest for which Charleston slave hire badges were issued. We are, however, aware of at least three other Fisher badges: an 1800 No. 55, an 1810 No. 24, and an 1810 No. 49. According to Harlan Greene, Harry S. Hutchins, Jr. and Brian E. Hutchins in the 2004 book Slave Badges and the Slave-Hire System in Charleston, South Carolina, 1783-1865, a total of 1,106 badges were issued with the 1812 date for all occupations. This date is third earliest for which Lafar was the maker, the silversmith having started producing these pieces in 1810. Combining an early date, rare occupation and superlative condition, this piece would serve as a highlight in the finest collection.