| U.S. Navy Ex-Apprentice
(following from www.history.navy.mil)
Apprentice boys were introduced during the period 1875-1880 and lasted only a short time until 1904. For a number of years, however, the apprentice system formed a major part of the Navy's training program for enlisted men. Its purpose was to attract high caliber youngsters into the Navy and give them instructions in seamanship, gunnery and the rudiments of a general education.
Apprentices entered the Navy between the ages of 14 and 18 and served until their 21st birthday. Unlike other applicants of that time they could not be enlisted at recruiting stations. Instead, they reported to one of the Navy's receiving ships at Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Mare Island. After 1883 they could also enlist at the training station at Newport. It was preferred that their parents or guardian accompany them when they applied.
Apprentices were examined by a board consisting of the commanding officer, one other line officer and a medical officer. By regulations of the time, the board could qualify some very small lads at the age of 14 years. However, for the 14 year olds, 4 foot nine and 70 pounds were the minimum height and weight, while for the 16 year olds the figures were 5 foot one and 90 pounds. Applicants had to be able to read and write, or in special cases where the boy showed general intelligence and was otherwise qualified he could be enlisted notwithstanding that his reading and writing were imperfect. Their character had to be well above average and upon being accepted they became Apprentice Third Class. Pay was $9.00 per month. Within one month after enlisting, the apprentice was transferred to the naval station at Newport. There he received instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic and the basic subjects of the seaman's profession. This period of shoreside training lasted six months. Next came a period aboard a cruiser training ship. Cruiser training ships formed a regular squadron. In 1897, for example, the apprentice training squadron was formed on Essex, Adams and Alliance. Bark-rigged and wooden hulled, they were 185 feet long and displaced 1,375 tons. The permanent ship's company of these vessels were mature Navymen especially adapted for that particular service, as regards to character, intelligence and professional qualifications.
Apprentices were stationed in one part of the ship for three months, as royal yardmen at the maintop, for example. Only in case of necessity were they detailed for duty as messmen. Cruiser training ships made a summer cruise and a winter cruise. After making both cruises the apprentices were transferred to a cruising ship of war. At this time they were advanced to Apprentice Second Class. Pay was then $10.00 per month. Aboard the cruising ship their duties continued to include considerable training. After one year's service, they were advanced to Apprentice First Class, monthly pay of $11.00.
Apprentices First Class had a grade equal to that of Seaman Second Class, or Ordinary Seaman; and an Apprentice Third Class was equal to that of Seaman Third Class, or Landsman. As a group these were the "Apprentice Boys" (there was also a rating of Boy in the Navy in 1797).
In view of the difficult entrance requirements, the low pay, and the varied duty they were subjected to, the question often was asked why would a youngster want to become an apprentice. One of the reasons was that they received a good education for the time, and at the same time received systematic instruction in seamanship.
The apprentice training system in the Navy ended in December 1904 when it became merged with the landsman training system of that time. The main emphasis shifted to basic training ashore, with a three months' course of instruction at one of the Navy's three training stations. These were Newport, Norfolk, and San Francisco.
The last Apprentice Boy payed off was Harry Morris, TMC who served from 1903 to 1958. Chief Morris, like the other ex-apprentices, wore a "figure of eight" knot insignia on his uniform.
[Ex-Apprentice Figure Eight Knot Insignia]
Ex-Apprentice Distinguishing Mark. - Enlisted men who have held the rating of Apprentice in the Navy shall wear a mark consisting of a "figure of eight" knot. Chief petty officers shall wear it on the coat sleeve below the rating badge. Other men shall wear it on the breast of the jumper, 2" below the "V", neck opening.
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