October 9

At one of the sessions of the third annual meeting of the United Typothetae of America, on October 9, 1889, Andrew McNally, the president of the employers’ association, harangued his audience with an account of the problems facing the members of the group. The probability of national acceptance of the eight-hour day was an important factor in the minds of employing printers, who were seeking means by which production could be maintained with shortened working hours. McNally asked that a national system of apprenticeship be formulated, which he hoped would guarantee a stable work force.

“The increasing inability of master printers to obtain a sufficient number of competent workmen,” he stated, “notwithstanding the high rate of wages, forces upon our attention the urgent need of an apprentice system. I consider it of sufficient importance to be made a subject of national legislation.

“The compulsory education of children finds almost universal support, but it may fairly be questioned whether the compulsory education of boys in useful trades would not contribute in a greater degree to the happiness and prosperity of our country. We supply the American youth free facilities to cultivate the brain, the more keenly to feel, in manhood, the curse of his unskilled hands. The short-sighted policy of trades unions, in limiting the number of apprentices, and the fact that, in the absence of any system of apprenticeship, American boys are too generally ‘Jacks of all trades and masters of none,’ have kept the supply of proficient workmen far below the demand occasioned by the increased volume of business. We are, therefore, compelled to look to immigration for our supply of skilled labor.

“I appreciate the difficulties of inaugurating an apprenticeship system. The American workman is generally opposed to it, and the American public looks upon it as a species of slavery. Why, I cannot conceive. It should be the duty of the workman to have his boy trained as a skilled mechanic, else he is liable to become a day laborer, a pauper or a hoodlum. Franklin says: ‘He that hath a trade, hath an estate, and he that hath a calling, hath an office of profit and honor.’ ”

It was not until the United Typothetae of America convention of 1914 that concrete proposals were made for the training of apprentices. At that time a permanent committee was set up and a Director of Apprentices appointed in the person of Dr. F.W. Hamilton, a well-known educator and former president of Tufts College. The movement to strengthen the education of printers continued when the UTA established a Department of Education, and cooperated in the forming of the School of Printing at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Printing education was thus raised to the college level and eventually bachelor of science degrees in printing were granted.

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