Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, featured the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering African-American slave around whom the stories of other characters revolve.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States. One million copies were sold in Great Britain. In 1855, three years after it was published, it was hailed as "the most popular novel of our day."
Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as a 40-week serial in The National Era, an abolitionist periodical, starting with the issue of June 5, 1851. The story became so popular that the publisher John P. Jewett contacted Stowe about turning the serial into a book.
Convinced the book would be a success, Jewett made the unusual decision for that time to have six full-page illustrations by Hammatt Billings engraved for the first printing.
"'Spread it round the world!' is the feeling which comes first, the instant, urgent, inevitable impulse, as one rises from the perusal of this fascinating book — and, thank God! it bids fair to become as familiar as household words, East, West, North and South." - The Independent