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At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 85,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World through the end of the twentieth century.

Unknown [Middle Passage iron bilboes, 18th century]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC09707 Author/Creator: Unknown Place Written: s.l. Type: Object Date: 1680-1800 Pagination: 1 shackle ; 41 x 12.5 x 5.5 cm. Order a Copy

One set of middle passage iron bilboes, circa 1680-1800. Item is an iron restraint for ankles or wrists used on slave ships to fasten two enslaved people to each other. Consist of an iron bar running through two c-shaped cuffs. One end of the rod has been flattened to make it too big to be removed from the cuffs. The other end of the rod has a loop that is attached to an iron circle. The circle can be used to attach the item to another.

Bilboes are iron restraints placed on the ankles or wrists, most often used on slave ships to fasten two enslaved people together. The word bilboes is thought to be a derivation of Bilbao (Spain), where the device was reportedly invented.

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