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Ordinance for the Dark Dyers and Ironers in Hesse (November 15, 1580)

Where corporate life was weak or non-existent, the regulation of the crafts lay in the hands of a higher authority, usually a prince. This Hessian dark dyers’ and ironers’ ordinance was issued by Landgrave Wilhelm “the Wise” (1532-92). The ordinance was requested, he says, by the practitioners of these closely related crafts. Therefore, strictly speaking, it is not a guild ordinance, but a princely statute that deals mainly with the management of labor and the organization of production, including the fixing of prices (paragraph 17).

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We, Wilhelm, by the grace of God, Landgrave of Hesse, Count of Catzenelnbogen, Dietz, Ziegenhein and Nidda, etc., publicly proclaim, for ourselves and for our heirs and succeeding Hessian princes, that our present and dear subjects, all the dark dyers and ironers of the dark dyers’ craft, have humbly expressed and requested to form a union and guild, like other crafts in our towns and villages. They ask this so that this craft may be practiced properly and honestly among them and that also good order shall be maintained. We therefore graciously make known that, accordingly, we, out of our good will and to benefit the common good of our cities and territories, grant their humble request by our authority as landgrave, and we establish a guild according to the regulations and provisions that follow:

[1] And first, whoever wants to practice and pursue this craft must be honest and pious. From the publication of this guild ordinance forward, he may not be admitted to this guild before he has for three years properly learned the craft with an honest master and received from his master a written certificate, which every master shall be obligated to give to his apprentices. Also, so that he shall be better acquainted with the customs and regulations of the craft, he shall have spent two years as a journeyman, whereupon he may buy his way into the guild by paying the sum of 10 gulden, half of it to be paid to us [Wilhelm] and half to the guild.

[2] Whoever considers taking up the craft of dark dyer or ironer shall come from pious, honest parents and possess evidence of this. He shall first have a trial period of fourteen days, and if the work is acceptable to him, then he shall swear before the master to practice the craft for three years with the same master and to behave properly toward his master and the other apprentices. If, however, a youth shall leave his master during the apprentice years without justification, he shall be deprived of the opportunity to practice the craft. If a master shall mistreat his apprentices, the master shall be penalized according to the severity of the mistreatment.

[3] A master shall not take on more than one youth. Once he has taken on one, he shall not give this one over to another master, unless poverty renders him unable to support or instruct the youth, in which case the youth shall be set free to go to another master.

[4] A master’s son, because he was raised within the trade, shall not be required to complete the three-year apprenticeship, except if he has left the craft for a period and learned another or otherwise employed himself in another business. In such a case, when he decides later that he desires to practice this craft, because he waited he shall be required and bound to learn the trade anew for the three years.

[5] A master’s son shall be a full member of the guild, and a master’s daughter a half member, so that if a daughter’s share is inherited by a son-in-law, he shall pay only half of the guild entry fee.

[6] A master shall not have more than one journeyman at a time, and when he has completed teaching this one, he shall, in the presence of two masters, or at least one, and one apprentice, pay off the journeyman and give him a written certificate, which will be recognized by masters and apprentices in other places.

[7] If one has not honestly learned this trade and still sets out as a journeyman, he shall not be supported or accepted by any, and if a master shall knowingly house him or give him work, he shall be handled similarly. If, however, he did so unknowingly, he shall not be penalized.

[8] No master shall, so long as he is in need of a journeyman’s services, dismiss one journeyman and hire another in his place without proper cause, unless it happens with the knowledge and consent of the original journeyman. Similarly, no journeyman shall leave a master in whose service he stands, nor take leave when his services are required, without the master’s consent or a serious reason. If, however, one or more shall do this, he or they shall no longer be permitted to work within our principality.

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