Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Tailor's Apprentice (Pennsylvania Gazette, 12-10-1794)

Benjamin Feurt was probably nearing the end of his seven-year apprenticeship to Benjamin Marrot (76 Arch Street, Philadelphia) when he ran away in November of 1794. Feurt was eighteen and wore his dark brown hair in an older, formal style, long and tied up behind. He was already "very smart at his business" of tailoring, and had enough foresight to take his indenture papers with him, which would allow him to pass for a free journeyman.
Feurt's wardrobe demonstrates that by the 1790s many apprentices were not simply wearing "oznabrigs" and other coarse homespuns. He had a dark green wool overcoat ("coating surtout"), a grey coat, and a fancy "cassimer plaid waistcoat." This last garment was made of a soft twill-woven wool (cassimere) with a plaid design, and certainly made a statement in both texture and pattern. Feurt chose to wear scarlet cotton breeches which, like his hair, made him appear quite respectable. This was supplemented by the "pair of cotton striped trowsers" he also took when he ran away. Visible below Feurt's breeches were ribbed knit stockings and shoes tied with black ribbons. Among his other garments were a scarlet waistcoat (which perhaps matched his breeches) and two fine ruffled linen shirts.
Benjamin Feurt was an industrious apprentice and made sure to take the legal paperwork and the clothing which would enable him to present himself as a respectable tailor wherever he ended up. But Benjamin Marrot would not let Feurt go lightly. The last year of an apprenticeship was often the most valuable to a master, who profited from the apprentice's "smart" work. Marrot put a premium on the return of his apprentice, and offered an uncommonly high reward. In fact, his forty dollars was ten times what David Ayers of Cumberland County, New Jersey, offered for the return of his apprentice David Stogdin in the same issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

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