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From the time of the earliest craft guilds in Europe until the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, apprenticeship was a common path for young men and women. In exchange for room and board, a young apprentice worked for a master craftsman for a specified term of indenture. The arrangement could be beneficial to both the adolescent and the master; the young person learned a trade or skill, while the adult gained a cheap source of labor. For orphans, such as Henry Barr, this term of service provided a good opportunity. Harsh as it may seem by todays standards, it provided a more secure present and future than the alternative, life on the streets.
The Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, founded by Rebecca Gratz and others in 1815, frequently made arrangements such as those outlined for Henry Barr in this contract of indenture. The Asylum provided opportunities for the so-called worthy poor, and this contract reflects the contemporary notion that a moral education was as important as instruction in specific work skills. Conditions were harsh for these young apprentices, but philanthropic workers such as Gratz labored to ensure that the children were treated decently and the terms of the contracted followed carefully.
For more information on the work of Rebecca Gratz and the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, go to JWAs Women of Valor exhibit.
1. What are the terms of Henry Barrs service? What are his obligations?
2. What benefits will Henry gain from this arrangement? What does he receive at the end of his service?
3. What is recommended at the end of the contract? Why do you think these recommendations were not part of the terms of the contract?
4. Do you think the terms of the contract provide a fair deal for Henry?
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