Although most Vermonters were still farmers in the first half of the 19th century, new industries were developing during this period which affected the economic system in Vermont. Many Vermont towns had small factories that employed up to a dozen people. While larger industries, such as iron foundries, textile mills, and gun manufactories, could afford extensive workforces. These new factories attracted immigrant workers from Ireland and Canada, as well as young adults from farm families. As transportation systems expanded, however, an influx of cheaper goods from other parts of the country or imported from abroad made it difficult for these small industries to survive.
As the economy expanded in the middle of the 19th century, new patterns of work emerged. People had typically worked according to the seasonal rhythms and by direction of the rising and setting sun. New industries, however, required time schedules. In factory towns, bells would chime at a specific time to indicate a change in shifts or lunch and dinner times.
Use the links to the right to explore three major industries that thrived in Vermont during this time period.
Teachers: Follow this lesson with our Where Can I Work? (see link to the right) student activity!