Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

Turning an Honest Penny

It would not be well if I should leave you to believe that during all this first winter in America I did nothing save gather fuel and hunt for game.

It is true that there was but little to be done in the way of useful labor, because of every one's waiting until it should be known where the city was to be built, yet Jethro and I hit upon a plan for turning an honest penny, even in a land where no trading was done, save the buying of furs from the savages.

We had come to know some of the Indians right well, as you may suppose, and often went into that one of their villages which stood not above a mile from father's cave. There we saw beautifully fashioned spoons made of handsome white wood, which the savages said was spoon-wood; but father told us it should be called laurel.

Now, you must know that many of the savages used seashells, sharpened to a keen edge, in the stead of knives, and with these bits of shell one could hollow out the bowl of a spoon more neatly than with a pocket- knife, besides which, it was to me interesting to use such odd tools.

To make a long story short, Jethro and I set about making these wooden spoons, and soon learned to do the work so deftly that we could turn out even better wares than did the savages.


At first we had given our time to such labor because of its being pleasing to us; but we soon found that it was possible to sell as many as could be made, for it was slow work, and from that day on we drove a brisk business, being so taken up with it as to give over roaming in the forest with the other lads.

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