Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     In his sixth publication, Joseph Lee Boyle again turns his attention to laborers in the Keystone State. Like his previous volumes, “APT TO GET DRUNK AT ALL OPPORTUNITIES”: WHITE PENNSYLVANIA RUNAWAYS, 1750-1762. Boyle’s latest work supplies data about white male and female colonists in the servitude category (indentured servants, redemptioners, political exiles, and convicts) in the mid-eighteenth century.

     In Boyle’s interesting and informative introduction, he points out that Pennsylvania received one-tenth of all male indentured servants and approximately one-fifth of female indentured servants from the 1720s through the 1740s. A significant number of them were Germans. One authority believes more than 67,000 German immigrants arrived at the busy port of Philadelphia from 1720 through 1760; at least half of them went into servitude.

     Of the Germans who went into bondage, up to two-thirds were redemptioners, meaning they negotiated with the shipping company the cost of their trip prior to sailing to the New World. Upon their arrival, the immigrants had up to fourteen days to sell their services for a specified length of time. If individuals were unable to do so, the shipper recovered the cost of passage by selling the indentures to the highest bidder. Under those conditions, the immigrants had no choice as to the type of work they would do or where they would go. The practice sometimes caused the breakup of families, since children and young adults were in greater demand than older people.

     Ambitious servants viewed their years of servitude as a time to prepare for their future life in the colonies. They became acclimatized to the weather, often acquired new skills, learned the culture, and made contacts with people who could help them after they fulfilled their term of service.

     Other indentured servants, however, encountered harsh treatment and cruel conditions that led to their running away from their masters. Approximately eighty percent of the fugitives were males. Most of them departed during the months of good weather, usually April through October. One estimate states around twenty to twenty-five percent of all servants fled from their masters. Non-British servants usually did not run away because of the language barrier.

     Most colonial American newspapers regularly printed advertisements that offered rewards for the apprehension of runaways and/or notices about their capture. From sixteen New England and Mid-Atlantic newspapers, Boyle gleaned all legible references pertaining to white fugitives who lived in Pennsylvania or had contacts there. (If ads listed names of blacks and whites together, Boyle identifies the blacks separately in the index.) By transcribing verbatim ads published the years 1750 - 1762, Boyle identifies several thousand escapees and their masters.

     Generally, the notices provide the names of the runaways, the person or persons offering the reward for their return, captured fugitives, and who had them in custody; a location; and the name and date of the newspaper reference. Additional information may vary from a few sentences to a long paragraph. Details may include the individual’s age, occupation, country of origin or nationality, a description of the clothes worn at the time of the escape, and a summary of his or her physical and personality traits.

     The eighteenth-century newspaper notices and advertisements concerning fugitives often furnish valuable information not found in other resources. As a result, details in the ads may furnish clues for new avenues of investigation. An important research tool for genealogists seeking forebears in the Mid-Atlantic area, “APT TO GET DRUNK AT ALL OPPORTUNITIES”: WHITE PENNSYLVANIA RUNAWAYS, 1750-1762 also provides fascinating reading about life in colonial America.

     The 485-page book has soft covers, a lengthy introduction, a list of the newspapers consulted by the author, a bibliography for further reading, and a full name index. To the book's price of $45.00, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order #8131) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website at .

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