At the time that the concept of adolescence was becoming institutionalized in America, “Boys of Sixteen” warns teenaged boys that those who don’t have employment by their mid teens may find themselves unemployable. It’s very different advice from that given by The Youth’s Companion to teenaged girls, in such works as “Tearing Open the Rosebud.”
“Boys of Sixteen” (from The Youth’s Companion, August 19, 1847; p. 64)

We like to see active and industrious boys of fifteen and sixteen years of age; we know they will make smart men. There are scores of such in this city, who are learning the mysteries of trades, or working behind a counter. They are cheerful and happy; have a pleasant look and a kind word for all.

But there are other boys who are dull and lazy. At sixteen years of age, you will find them hanging about the corners, or wasting their time in idle society. They will not work to support themselves, and are obliged to call on their parents for clothing and support. Such boys will turn out miserable tools. Few men care to take boys who have arrived to sixteen or seventeen years of age—who have contracted idle habits, and partially formed their characters. Those lads love to dress well, and make a good appearance and parade about the streets to show themselves; but they are good for nothing to a mechanic or merchant; and never can be, unless they cast off their lazy habits and engage in some business.

In many instances parents are remiss in duty. They will neither let their sons go to this place nor the other, for fear they will soil their hands or dirty their clothes, and so they keep them dandling about the house, till they become altogether too old to find places. The sea generally brings them up at last, unless they rust out and die of what is politely called consumption.

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