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Analyzing William Beaumont’s relationship with his experimental subject, Alexis St. Martin, this article demonstrates how the “research ethics” of antebellum America were predicated on models of employment, servitude, and labor. The association between Beaumont and St. Martin drew from and was understood in terms of the ideas and practices of contract labor, informal domestic servitude, indentures, and military service. Beaumont and St. Martin lived through an important period of transition in which personal master–servant relations existed alongside the “free” contract labor of market capitalism. Their relationship reflected and helped constitute important developments in nineteenth-century American labor history.