Clerks, Apprentices, and Boyculture

John Corrigan

in Business of the Heart

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780520221963
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924321 | DOI:
Clerks, Apprentices, and Boyculture

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This chapter describes the salient aspects of an emergent boyculture in Boston. As apprentices, clerks, laborers, or other kinds of workers, unmarried young men in their late teens and twenties created for themselves a community, an urban subculture, in the years leading up to the revival. Athletic endeavor was fundamental to boyculture in that boys worked out in gymnasiums, and in their rooms before going to bed. They kept track of their 186 exertions in weight lifting and calisthenics, and measured and weighed themselves constantly. A key element of boyculture was the thrill, in whatever form it might take. The everyday elements of boyculture, the behaviors that marked the personal and collective process of growing up male, included a wide range of performances involving guns, girls, mischief, swearing, cardplaying, dancing, smoking, fighting, and rioting. Raised by mothers who indoctrinated them into the principles and aspirations of commercial life—and above all, the importance of boldness, of pluck, to the realization of their manhood—many young men came to the city armed with plans for conquering it by industry, initiative, and drive. Boyculture reinforced such virtues through its focus on sports, and especially on a view of sports as the proving ground for the sort of manly strength and will that was required to succeed in business.

Keywords: clerks; apprentices; boyculture; Boston; athletic endeavor; urban subculture

Chapter.  9577 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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