W3398 TO REV. THOMAS BAKER from John Puckridge Baker
Apr 10 1880
To: Rev. Thomas Baker 3 Bold Street, Hamilton, Ontario
From: 312 Thames Road, London, Ontario
Rev. Thos. Baker
My Dear Grandpa,
I last week received a letter from Willie requesting me to try and secure him a position as an apprentice to a [saddler?] in London. He also enclosed to me a a letter which he had a short time previous received [??] in which you wished him to get one as well as his Uncles John Puckridge to make inquiries. I have accordingly made cautious inquiry here, both as to the advantage offered by the trade and as to the opportunities offered in obtaining a [sic] education. I had the information gained, and also my own opinion, to fully confirm the wisdom of your preference for the harness making to the blacksmithing trade. It is both lighter and cleaner, cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and one of the most likely trades to offer steady employment at remunerative wages to a good worker.
There are in London four pretty good establishments in this trade, together with several smaller ones. I called on the four largest and found the proprietors of two in particular, to be very nice persons who readily gave me a great deal of advice and information with regard to the busines. I talked perhaps for nearly an hour with each of them.
One of them ships largely to distant markets and is at an outlay of from eight to ten thousand dollars per year for leather, and as they have dealt allmost [sic] entirely for several years back with Hugh [Galayen?] & Co. of Paris, one of the best tanners in the Country I should judge they must be doing a good class of work. They seemed to strongly advise that the trade should be learnt in a large shop as offering many advantages over a small one. They did not care at all for a boy under sixteen and I am afraid Willie would be considered rather small, though I might be mistaken in this. It appears that the apprentices in nearly all cases board themselves the wages paid being $1.50, $2.50, $3.00, $3.50 per week for four years, That is to say $1.50 per week the first year, $2.50 per week the second and so on. I think that in town the remuneration they offer is really better, they generally board the boys themselves and pay about $30.00, $40.00, $50.00, & $100.00 per year. It was however represented to me that the other way was found to work the best the boys being much more likely to complete their time when boarding themselves, and this seems to be one of the chief difficulties, that they get disastisfied and return to put in the full length of their term. The custom of binding them seems to be going out of use, though they will do it if desired but they seem to say that if a boy gets thoroughly disastisfied it is very little use either to them or the boy to force him to stay. And I think myself that the plan has its disadvantages for several reasons, especially in towns where a boy boards with his master. I know this by my own case, I was bound to Mr. [Angus?] a carpenter in Paris and boarded with him, I not only had to go to the shop or buildings and do as long a days work as the Journeymen but also had a horse to attend to night and morning and wood to cut for the house, of course I could not be compelled to do this by law, but if I had objected I would have been told that the other boys did it and why could not I. The houses also in the city are only ten [?] while in towns I believe they go back to the shop and work evenings during the winter.
If however it were thought best to get Willie a higher [sic] where he would board with his master I think that Hugh Finlayson Jun. [sic] one of the saddlers of Paris would be an excellent person with whom to apprentice him. I am well acquainted with Mr. Finlayson and know him to be a first class workman and a kind master and if he was in need of an apprentice would do as well by Willie as he could I am sure. His work however is nearly all of a heavy class for the farming communities, but one of the Puckridges a 2nd cousin of ours learnt his trade there a few years ago and is now I hear a very good workman. I cannot say that there seems a good prospect of getting a situation in London before the first of another year, it seems they generally make arrangements some months before hand [sic] and usually take one about the beginning of each year. Three of the four to whom I applied would enter into an agreement of this kind, and I might in some of the smaller places if it was thought best be able to procure him a place earlier. I can assure you we should be very glad to have him live in London and board with us if he did not board with his master, Minnie in particular would be overjoyed to have one of the Family to be with her evenings and nights the most of which times I am away. And I think we could make the time pass pleasantly for him so that he would not find the time of his apprenticeship long. I am sorry to find him so anxious to leave school. I am sure he will find the want of it in after life if he ever undertakes to carry on a business of any kind. And he has now got to a time of life that he might learn a great deal in a short time if he would only apply himself at a good school.
I find from Alice that with declining years you find letter writing a more and more irksome task (I hope it may not be so with letter reading) and of course I could not wish you to tax yourself so much unless I could do something to forward your wishes. So if Uncle John has not found a suitable place, and you judge from the contents of my letter that I could make arrangements that would be satisfactory to you and beneficial to Willie I hope you will permit me to do so. If I knew positively what your will in the matter is I would know how to proceed. I think it possible that a place might be secured in one of the smaller shops at once. It is also possible that they would take him at once, at one of the larger places where he would be learning, and the time of this apprenticeship passing away if they were not looked to for any remuneration for the first three months or six, and even this I think would be quite as much beneficial to him as to continue going to school where he is. I was down there a short time ago and stayed for a day or two and from what I saw felt convinced that he learnt nothing worth speaking of and that his Uncle was too much worried both with ill health and hard times to care wether [sic] he did or not. I think he did not pretend to know even in the case of his own boy wether [sic] he had gone to school or gone shooting. Wish kindest love to you all
In which Minnie unites I remain
Your affectionate Grandson
John P. Baker.
1 Rev. Thomas Baker oversees the care of his 7 granchildren, orphaned by his son James Alfred Baker. John Puckridge is the eldest and William is the youngest. For more information about this family see W2953, W4141, W2960, W3328, W5496.