On June 5, 1851, Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly began to appear in serial form in the Washington National Era, an abolitionist weekly. Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery story was published in forty installments over the next ten months. For her story Mrs. Stowe was paid $300.
Although the National Era had a limited circulation, its audience increased as reader after reader passed their copies along to one another. In March 1852, a Boston publisher decided to issue Uncle Tom's Cabin as a book and it became an instant best seller. Three hundred thousand copies were sold the first year, and about two million copies were sold worldwide by 1857. For a three-month period Stowe reportedly received $10,000 in royalties. Across the nation people discussed the novel and debated the most pressing sociopolitical issue dramatized in its narrative—slavery.