The Craft Apprentice


Book Details

Author  W.J. Rorabaugh
Publisher  Oxford University Press
Publication Date   January 9, 1986
ISBN  0195036476
Pages  288

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The apprentice system in colonial America began as a way for young men to learn valuable trade skills from experienced artisans and mechanics, and soon flourished into a fascinating and essential social institution. Benjamin Franklin got his start in life as an apprentice, as did Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, William Dean Howells, William Lloyd Garrison, and many other famous Americans. But the Industrial Revolution brought with it radical changes in the lives of craft apprentices. In this book, W.J. Rorabaugh has woven an intriguing collection of case histories, gleaned from numerous letters, diaries, and memoirs, into a narrative that examines the varied experiences of individual apprentices and the massive changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. Rorabaugh traces the evolution of apprenticeship from its colonial roots, to the part it played in the settlement of the West, through to its decline in the 19th century, when money and machines transformed age-old crafts, and relations between master and apprentice began to crumble. No craft was transformed more than printing, and this original study shows how the Civil War destroyed lingering tradition and left in its wake a powerful economy dominated by machines, nostalgic memories of handicrafts, and idle, alienated youths.

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