This subject was treated on pages 169 and 183, current volume. We do not assume to dictate t correspondents either the subject or the style of their communications, nor do we wish to interfere in the arrangements the members of Trades Unions may choose to make. Yet, whatever good these organized combinations may be capable of accomplishing, it is certain that some of their regulations operate harshly on outsiders. Especially is this the case as regards apprentices. A letter from Baltimore, Md., evidently written by a female hand, says : " The main reason why more boys do not learn trades is owing to the fact that trades combinations (the greatest evil society has to deal with) fix the number of apprentices each employer is allowed to have, and unless the employing mechanics of the different trades break up these combinations effectually there is no remedy, and the number of good journeymen will become so scarce that mechanical business will remain stationary. " A case in point in this city illustrates the working of these trades combinations. An employing tinman working about thirty hands, took a lad, the soon of a poor widow, promising to teach him the trade. Soon after he put him to the bench every journeyman left his work, demanding the dismissal of the boy, refusing to return until he was sent away. Although the proprietor stated the case to them, that he was the ' only son of his mother, and she a widow,' they were firm in theii determination, and the lad was dismissed. " This is only one case. Parents, after repeatedly trying tc procure opportunities for their boys to learn trades to fit them for usefulness in after life, are compelled to get them into any hand-to-mouth employment rather than bring them up in idleness." Another, writing from Pleasantville, Pa., says lie is a foreigner, two years in this country, at home a clerk and bookkeeper. Here he has been employed in boring and pumping oil wells. He wishes to learn the trade of sign and carriage painting, but doubts procuring an opportunity. He asks ad vice. In relation to the Baltimore correspondent's complaint, we cannot agree fully with its main proposal. We do not thint employing mechanics sliould unite to break up the combinations of the workers. The principal objection to such, com binations of workmen as now exist, is that they are com posed of employes alone, and we cannot see that a combinatior of employers alone would be free from this objection. Capital and labor, the employer and employed, are not properly an Jagonistic; the interest of one is the interest of the other These class combinations appear to ustabe not only unnatural, but absurd. We can see no valid objection or insuperable difficulty in the way of harmonious combination of employer and employed a combination, or society, that shall regulate, by mutual conference and mutual concession, if necessary, the status of different workmen, rate of compensation, rules for the admission of apprentices, etc. All this could, and can be done without injustice to employer or employed, and with, advantage to the apprentice. After all, however, we believe such cases of hardship as that mentioned by our correspondent are to be attributed not to trade combinations but to the lack of proper regulations defining the duties of apprentice and master. When a lad can enter a shop ostensibly as an apprentice, and, after six months or a year, leave and set up for a journeyman, it is not surprising that journeymen who have faithfully served their time object to the reception of apprentices. But legislation is unnecessary in this case; if employers and workmen would institute and enforce rules for the reception and training of apprentices, the difficulties that now hamper and embarrass employer, journeyman, parents, and would-be apprentices would disappear.
This article was originally published with the title "Why Don't Boys Learn Trades?" in Scientific American 20, 14, 218 (April 1869)