Johnny Tremain Chapter 1 Summary

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

Chapter One of ''Johnny Tremain'' introduces the reader to the setting of colonial Boston, the apprentice boys, and the Lapham family. Read this lesson for a quick summary of the highlights of the all-important first chapter.

Meet the Laphams

Chapter One opens during summertime in colonial Boston, around the time of the American Revolution. Mr. Lapham, an elderly silversmith (someone who makes things out of silver, like silver plates and jewelry), lives with his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lapham and her four daughters, Madge, Dorcas, Cilla and Isannah. There are also three boys who are apprentices. An apprentice is someone who works for somebody else in order to learn a trade. In this case, they are silversmith apprentices. Their names are Johnny, Dove, and Dusty.

Dove, the 16-year-old apprentice, resents Johnny because Johnny bullies him. He is also frustrated that Johnny, who is only 14, is awarded more responsibility and is excused from the more boring tasks in the silversmith shop. Dusty, the other apprentice, is torn about whether to side with Dove or Johnny; Dusty works with Dove more closely, but just like everyone else does, he admires Johnny.

Johnny's Attitude

Johnny is a confident young man - sometimes too confident. He's a talented apprentice, and he knows how to read, unlike many people at the time. With these talents, he feels he can bully the others, mainly Dove, and he has a hard time accepting criticism.

During dinner, Mr. Lapham tries to teach Johnny about having too much pride. He asks Johnny to read a specific part from the Bible where God wants people to be humble, not prideful. At first, Johnny is a good sport about the lesson. But when the two younger daughters, Cilla and Isannah, begin teasing him after the meal, he loses his cool and storms off.

Mr. Hancock Visits

At the shop, the apprentices and Mr. Lapham receive a visitor, the wealthy politician Mr. John Hancock. Mr. Hancock arrives with his slave, Jehu, and wants to have a sugar basin made to replace one that was damaged by his servants. To everyone's surprise, the original sugar basin was made by Mr. Lapham many years ago.

Mr. Lapham is nervous that he won't be able to recreate the basin exactly as it was, especially with a quick deadline, but Johnny jumps in and agrees to take the project on. Doing business with the powerful Mr. Hancock could mean that they could all get out of poverty.

A silver sugar basin
A Silver Sugar Basin

Johnny's Secret

Johnny works all hours to get Mr. Hancock's sugar basin completed. Mr. Lapham has agreed to make the bowl itself, but Johnny is responsible for creating the handles.

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