Home > Uncategorized > Cities in the Wilderness: The First Century of Urban Life in America 1625-1742

Cities in the Wilderness: The First Century of Urban Life in America 1625-1742

Source: Carl Bridenbaugh, Cities in the Wilderness: The First Century of  Urban Life in America 1625-1742 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955).

[page 36]

Among the busiest of village artisans were the coopers, who made barrels, hogsheads, pipes, kegs, and other “caske” for packing flour, salted meats, fish, beer, and provisions for merchant exporters.  Coopers were especially numerous in Boston where their services were greatly in demand for making barrels and casks for fish and salt pork.  In 1648 they joined with their brethren of Charlestown (Massa-

[page 37]

chusetts) in a petition to the General Court “about being a company” with power to set standards for their trade.  They were incorporated as a guild for three years “& no longer.”27 In 1680, when New York received the bolting monopoly, the coopers of that village, instead of seeking incorporation, employed the ancient device of a cartel to raise the price of their wares.  The Court, on finding them guilty, fined them £2, 10. each.  The four “Master Coopers” of Philadelphia, who made “an abundance of Caske for the Sea,” and those of Newport, and Charles Town, where the principal commodities for export were also grain, beef and pork, while without the spectacular history of their fellows in Boston and New York, were equally active in the “mistery of cooperage.”28

27 Mass. Col. Recs., II, 250; 7 Bos. Rec. Com., 22.

28 Stokes, Iconography, IV, 319; Pa. Mag., IV, 195; Austin, Journal of William Jeffary, 28; S.C. Statutes, II, 55-57.

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