Friday, May 14, 2010

Ice Skates and Runaways (Pennsylvania Gazette, 5-21-1794)

Runaway apprentices were a constant problem in early America. Consigned to menial tasks and subjected to the whims of sometimes tyrannical masters, young artisans had ample reason to run away. Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most famous of these youthful rebels, but apprentices became increasingly obstinate after the Revolution. As republican ideals spread, journeymen and apprentices asserted their rights as citizens, upsetting the traditional heirarchy.

Our friend John Tutton was apprenticed to Hugh Lownds in an unknown trade in rural Springfield Township, southwest of Philadelphia. A typical sixteen-year-old with a mop of red hair and a face full of freckles, Tutton was clothed in drab-colored, coarse garments. Clothing provisions were generally included as part of an apprentice's indenture contract, and Tutton had an olive jean coat as well as rusty, "copperas coloured jacket and trowsers," and another pair of brown linen trousers. An old hat barely covered his red hair, but he managed to take along two pairs of shoes, albeit with "large square buckles." Most interestingly, Tutton "took with him two pairs of skates." Skates appear in the Pennsylvania Gazette as early as 1748, when David Lindsay advertised for a runaway slave who had stolen a fiddle and pair of skates.

The notation on this particular advertisement is the remnant of some cyphering which was jotted on this particular copy's pages.

Hugh Lownds ran a second advertisement seeking John Tutton in early July, and it seems unlikely that he ever reclaimed his former apprentice. Tutton probably sold the skates for a small sum to help fund his new start. It is somewhat unfortunate that his escape occured in May. Otherwise, we might be tempted to imagine him skating his way to freedom.

No comments:

Post a Comment