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‘He Pretends to Be a Weaver’
A Recently Injured Apprentice Runs Away?

July 5, 1764

The Pennsylvania Gazette

RUN away from the Subscriber, Cooper, [1] living in Kennett Township, Chester County, on the 24th of June last, at Night, an Apprentice, named John McBride, born in Ireland, and stutters a little when talking, about 22 or 23 Years of Age, 5 Feet 5 Inches high, of a dark Complexion has a surly Look, and a pretty large Beard, with some Moles on his Cheek, wear his own darkish coloured Hair, which it is supposed he will keep tied behind;

one of this Thumbs has lately put out of Joint, [2] which seems thicker than the other:

Had on, and took with him, when he went away, an old Felt Hat, a Linsey Jacket, double breasted, three Shirts, one of them fine, with Ruffles, another striped, and the third one of coarse Cloth; two Pair of Linen Trowsers, one of which new, the other Pair of an uncommon Fashion, as they lay over, and are buttoned on one Side; A Pair of Yarn Stockings, new Pumps, with square Steel Buckles. He pretends to be a Weaver. [3]

Whoever takes up said Apprentice, and secures him, so as his Master may have him again, shall have Forty Shillings Reward, and reasonable Charges, paid by THOMAS HARRY.


1. A cooper was a maker of barrels and casks, with that trade being in high demand in a resource rich colony which had not yet been deforested as had the British Isles.

2. It cannot be known if this was an accident on the job or torture. However, if it were an accident any responsible owner would have his servant’s thumb set and splinted. I did this much for my dog when I only made 107 dollars per week. It seems that our man must have been punished and then ran off. Using the thumb screw on black slaves was common in the south. We could expect no better here.

3. If John was an apprentice as we understand it, why was he apprenticing at being a cooper when he had a perfectly good skill in the weaving trade? The answer is that most weaving was done in the home country, as it was desired to ship finished “value added” products to the colonies, not establish industry there. What weaving was done would be by a wife for her family. Attire providers actually set up shop near transport locations in Ireland, England and Scotland, where the servants would be outfitted, with their clothes factored into the sale price of the servant. Indeed, in many cases of child kidnapping in Scotland, children were sold to pay off the debt they incurred when accepting clothing articles! See Stillbirth of a Nation. There seems to be no difference in the status of an apprentice from a servant or a convict according to the sources so far accessed.

Books by James LaFond

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