Children at Work

This resource is adapted from the New-York Historical Society’s New World—New Netherland—New York curriculum.

Indenture of Elizabeth Fortune

“Indenture of Elizabeth Fortune, September 10, 1723,” Indentures, 1718–1727. New-York Historical Society Library.

Document Text


Registred for Mrs Elizabeth Sharpas the 10th day of September Anno Dom 1723. Registered for Mrs. Elizabeth Sharpas on
September 10, 1723.
This indenture made the Second day of September Anno Domini One Thousand Seven Hundred and Twenty Three between John Fortune, a Free Negro Man of the City of New York Cooper, and Maria his wife, a Free Negro Woman, of the One Part and Elizabeth Sharpas of the Said City, Spinster, of the Other part. This contract is between John and Maria Fortune, a free Black couple in New York City, and Elizabeth Sharpas, an unmarried woman in New York. It is being signed on September 2, 1723.
Wittnesseth that the said John Fortune and Maria his wife have by these presents put, placed, and bound their daughter Elizabeth Fortune aged nine years the first day of March last past as an apprentice with the Said Elizabeth Sharpas John and Maria are paying to place their daughter, nine-year-old Elizabeth Fortune, as an apprentice to Elizabeth Sharpas. The apprenticeship began on March 1.
as an apprentice with her, the said Elizabeth Sharpas, to dwell from the day of the date of these presents for and during the term of Nine Years from thence next ensuing and fully to be complete and ended by and during all which time and term the said Elizabeth Fortune the Said Elizabeth Sharpas her Mistress shall well truly and faithfully shall serve in all such lawful employ and business as the said Elizabeth Sharpas shall put her.
Elizabeth Fortune will live with Elizabeth Sharpas for nine years. During this time, Elizabeth Fortune will work for Elizabeth Sharpas to the best of her ability.
The Said Elizabeth Fortune unto according to her power, wit, and ability and honestly and obediently in all things shall behave herself towards her said Mistress and all hers and shall not contract matrimony during the said Term. Elizabeth Fortune promises to obey Elizabeth Sharpas. She also promises to not get married until her nine years of service are complete.
And the Said Elizabeth Sharpas for her part promises, Covenants, agrees that she the said [crossed out] Elizabeth Sharpas the Said apprenticed Elizabeth Fortune in the art and skill of housewifery, the best manner that she may or can, shall teach and inform or cause to be taught and informed and well to read the English tongue.
Elizabeth Sharpas promises to teach Elizabeth Fortune the art and skill of managing a home. She also promises to teach Elizabeth Fortune to read and write English.
And also during all the said term shall, and will, find for her said apprentice sufficient apparel, meat, drink, washing, and lodging and all other things necessary and convenient for such an apprentice for and during the term aforesaid. Elizabeth Sharpas promises to give Elizabeth Fortune all the clothing, food, and drink she will need during her nine-year term. She will also provide her with a safe place to live.
And at the expiration of the said term shall and will give unto her said apprentice one good new suit of apparel both linen and woolen over and above her usual wearing clothes. At the end of the nine years, Elizabeth Sharpas will give Elizabeth Fortune two new sets of clothing, one for winter and one for summer.
In witness whereof the parties to these presents have interchangeably set their hands and seals the day and year first above written
John Fortune
Maria Fortune

Sealed and delivered in the presence of
Peter Porter
Paroeulus Parmyter
Will Sharpas
This is the list of people who signed and witnessed this contract on September 2, 1723.
Memorandum that on the Second day of September Anno Domino 1723 personally appeared before me David Jamison, Esq, Recorder of the City of New York and one of his Majesties Justices of the Peace of the said City and Country, the within named John Fortune & Maria his wife and acknowledged the within Indenture of Apprenticeship to be their voluntary act and deed to the use therein mentioned and at the same time the said apprentice acknowledged and declared her free consent thereunto.

David Jamison.


NOTE: Elizabeth Fortune appeared before me the day this contact was signed and declared that she agreed to all its parts.

“Indenture of Elizabeth Fortune, September 10, 1723,” Indentures, 1718–1727. New-York Historical Society Library.