This week is a continuation of the series on Apprenticeships in North Carolina. Previously, I talked about some general information related to Apprentice records. This week I will talk about the laws that regulated the apprentice system. The system of apprenticeships are rooted in Medieval time, the practice continued in North Carolina and still exists today.
In the book Labor of Innocents by Karin L. Zipf, the author begins with discussing the most commonly bound children – orphaned children (and remember, orphan then meant only the father had to die – the mother could still be alive), children born out of wedlock, and free black children. Another group the author does not mention is in 1715, children who were born of both white and black children were bound out as well.
The courts left records called apprentice bonds as well as entries in the county’s civil action papers which often said something along the lines of “to prevent the child from becoming a burden on the county [once they reach adulthood].” In my eyes, I see the apprentice system in North Carolina before the 1900s as a form of social welfare. And not all orphans, children born out of wedlock, or free black children were bound out – only those whose families were not able to fully care for them. Often these types of apprenticeships were forced, but it was not uncommon for children who resided in rural areas to voluntarily enter an apprenticeship. One things the laws stipulated is that apprentice masters must teach their wards to reach or write or “cause to teach them to read or write” (in other words potentially hire a private tutor). (more…)