Artisanal Societies and American Sociability

Artisans operated in a freer market in the American colonies than in Europe, as many European trades had established, conservative guild organizations, whose origins dated back to the Middle Ages. These organizations regulated the prices charged and the wages paid to workers. There were many efforts, more or less successful, to organize American trades on the European model, usually to the benefit of the master artisans. For example, the Carpenters’ Company of Philadelphia, founded in 1724, was an organization of master builders devoted to minimizing competition by establishing uniform rates for their work. They also established a library in 1734, with works of building design, mostly from England. The company split in 1769 over entrance fees and other issues. In 1771, Philadelphia’s master tailors organized a similar group to fix prices and limit journeymen’s wages. Although there were many solitary craftspeople, the artisan workshop could be a place of lively conversation. Urban artisans also socialized outside their individual trades, in churches, militia companies, Masonic lodges, and informal clubs. One organization bringing artisans together across trades was the Ancient and Honorable Mechanical Company of Baltimore, founded in 1763. Like many artisans, members of the Mechanical Company supported the patriot movement, lending their headquarters to the first meeting of the Baltimore Sons of Liberty in 1766. William E. Burns See also: Art, Folk; Economy, Business, and Labor (Chronology); Economy, Business, and Labor (Essay); Laborers, Urban; Document: Advice to a Young Tradesman (1748). Bibliography Bridenbaugh, Carl. The Colonial Craftsman. Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961. Daniels, Christine. “WANTED: A Blacksmith who Understands Plantation Work:’ Artisans in Maryland 1700 1810.” William and Mary Quarterly 3:50 (1993): 743 67. Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Low Country. Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Ward, Barbara McLean. “Boston Artisan Entrepeneurs of the Goldsmithing Trade in the Decades before the Revolution.” In Entrepreneurs: The Boston Business Community, 1700 1850, edited by Conrad Edick Wright and Katheryn P. Viens. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1997. Wolfe, Stephanie Grauman. As Various as Their Land: The Everyday Lives of Eighteenth-Century Americans. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
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