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

    Completing his eighth compilation of newspaper extracts, Joseph Lee Boyle maintains his focus on early laborers in the Keystone State. Like his earlier volumes, “MUCH ADDICTED TO STRONG DRINK AND SWEARING”: WHITE PENNSYLVANIA RUNAWAYS, 1769-1772, Boyle’s latest publication supplies data about eighteenth-century white male and female colonists in the servitude category, which included indentured servants, redemptioners, political exiles, and convicts.

     In Boyle’s interesting and informative introduction, he points out that Philadelphia was one of the busiest ports in the American colonies between 1720 and 1760. Most of the ships coming from the Old World carried passengers who went into bondage. Pennsylvania received one-tenth of all male indentured servants and approximately one-fifth of female indentured servants.

     Of the more than 67,000 German immigrants who landed in the New World, at least half went into servitude. Up to two-thirds of them were redemptioners, meaning they negotiated with the shipping company for the cost of their trip prior to sailing from Europe. After their arrival in America, the immigrants had up to fourteen days to sell their services for a specified length of time. If individuals failed 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. At times, the practice broke up 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, learned the culture, often acquired new skills, and made contacts with people who could help them after they fulfilled their term of service. One authority believes that one in ten later became an artisan while the same percentage became prosperous land owners.

     Other indentured servants encountered harsh conditions and cruel treatment that led to their running away from their masters. Approximately eighty percent of the fugitives were males, who customarily 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, however, 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 twenty-five New England and Mid-Atlantic newspapers, Boyle gleaned for this volume all legible references pertaining to approximately 2,500 more 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.

     In general, 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.

     Boyle’s publication also sheds light on some colorful characters in colonial America. For example, Matthias DOLNICK, a jail escapee in 1769, “may be remarkable for having...accompanied one SINGEISEN on his voyage to Germany, with a Buffaloe (sic) for a show....” Either Joseph HOLDSTOCK was a very understanding master or Hopkins DRIVER was an excellent blacksmith because Holdstock advertised for Driver’s return, despite his running run away thirty-three times. John McNAMARA, alias John DOYLE, was “excessive fond of strong liquor...swears almost at every word, and sings lewd and infamous songs.” In 1771, John Miller’s wife, Mary, left him and “from a spirit of malice, stripped the house of almost every thing (sic) it contained, and not content with all this...she has taken a servant girl with her.”

     Because eighteenth-century newspaper notices and advertisements concerning fugitives often provide valuable details not found in other resources, the information may furnish clues for new avenues of investigation. Like Boyle’s previous volumes, “MUCH ADDICTED TO STRONG DRINK AND SWEATING”: WHITE PENNSYLVANIA RUNAWAYS, 1769-1772 is an important research tool for genealogists seeking early forebears in what became the Keystone State,

     The 452-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 $39.95, 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 #CF8133) 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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