Indenture of George F. Lawley

Apprentice to Thomas and William Forrest

Original content by: Heather Christie

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About This Document

When George F. Lawley was 15 years old, he began an apprenticeship to shipbuilders in Limehouse, England named Thomas and William Forrest. This contract binds George to a seven year apprenticeship in boat building, during which time he must conduct himself in the manner described in the contract. His masters, Thomas and William Forrestt, must teach him their craft and provide him with food, drink, and lodging. The contract is signed by George, his father Richard Lawley, Thomas and William Forrest, and Thomas ____.

Read by Ryan Chalifour.

Historical Context

George F. Lawley's father, Richard, was also a boat builder under Thomas and William Forrestt. George apprenticed with the Forrests until 1845. He sailed his family to America in 1851 and lived in Massachusetts, where he worked for Donald McKay. After a few years, George started his own boat building company in Scituate, Massachusetts. His son, George F. Lawley Jr., joined him a few years later, and the firm became known as George Lawley and Son. George F. Lawley Jr.'s son, Frederic, received a degree in naval architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the firm immediately after as designer. More...

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Do you think it would be easy or hard to follow the terms of this contract? Why?
  2. How have apprenticeships changed between the 1800s and the present?
  3. Why was boat building such an important trade in the 1800s?