It was harder to find inexperienced seamen or greenhands. The outfitter relied on shipping agents who had offices around the country and advertised in newspapers, at public establishments, and in the streets. Recruitment posters promised young men fantastic fortunes and a chance to see the world. Young men, faced with limited prospects on small farms, sometimes believed the bold exaggerations made in advertisements. They contacted shipping agents who delivered them to the outfitter's shop.
When a new recruit arrived at the outfitter, he signed the ship's articles. This legal contract committed him to undertake the voyage and indicated his pay, which was a portion of the ship's profits or "lay." The seaman was given a chest of supplies and some cash in advance of the voyage. These items were not free, however. The seaman would be required to repay the total cost plus interest at the end of the voyage.