The success of these new industries was dependent upon the workforce. After learning about Kent's shoe shop, Jarvis' farm, and Tyson Furnace, read what these people have to say about their work situation.Can you figure out at which of the three work places these people would have worked?
Questions to consider:
- Can I board here?
- Do I need special skills to work here?
- Can I leave to go home for militia service, election day, and for haying?
- Can I get work for just a few hours a week?
- Is work within walking distance?
- What is the work schedule like?
Meet the workers
Names, ages, and some of the details were taken from account books and census records. But the circumstances and motives about work are educated conjecture.
I grew up here in town. Whenever I need extra money I can go down and work in the shop for awhile. It depends on how my farm is doing. I own my own tools. Once I worked there pretty steady for four years though I took time off for haying, planting, militia, town meeting and almost any other day I needed. I earn enough so that my family can go to the store and get what we need. It’s convenient to have the store nearby. When I needed boards for my new barn I bought them there. When my wife or I need cash we go to the store. We sit down about once a year and settle my account.
My brother and I have been working here for the past 3 years since our father sold the family farm. Our small dairy farm couldn’t compete anymore with the bigger farms. My father wanted to move West to be with his brother in Illinois. He took my mother and sisters with him. Frederick and I stayed here in Vermont. Although working here isn’t the same as working your own land, I am saving money while working here and hope to someday have my own farm.
I need to have a contract for a full year that includes a house for my wife and two children. If there’s a school, church, and store nearby that will make my wife happy. She’s upset when I work on Sunday but in my line of work when we’re pouring I need to be there. If a casting cracks, it’s my money.
I’m sixteen years old and live with my parents on the farm. Since we don’t do weaving at home anymore I have time to do some outside work if I can find it within walking distance from home. Father said no to boarding out since Mother still needs me most of the time to help with cleaning, cooking, gardening, helping with the younger kids, and sewing. I’m pretty good at sewing so maybe I can get some piecework.
I miss my family back in Ireland, but luckily my younger brother Owen came across with me. We landed in Boston and being farm boys wanted to get out of the city. We heard about this place up in the Green Mountains and came as quick as we could. It’s harder and dirtier than I’ve ever imagined. The worst is shoveling the coal into the furnace. I feel as if my arms will fall off and at the end of the long day I’m black with soot and sweat. We’re paid a fair wage and they are civil to us since they’d have a hard time finding enough locals to keep the place going round the clock. Unlike most of the men we board in town with the Pollard family. They’re kind and decent people unlike a few of the townspeople who give us a wide berth when they hear our Irish brogue.
I have been handling the sale of imported Provisions for quite some time now. It is sometimes an unstable business. With an increase of extraordinary supplies, the markets often become flooded and prices have to be kept down. I continue my work in sales and send an annual account back to the merchant in United States.
My team of four is one of the best rigs in Vermont. I trained the horses, built the wagon myself, and had one of the founders help me reinforce the sides with iron bands. My route is usually up over the mountains at Shelburne Pass, down to Rutland, to the canal barges at Whitehall, but sometimes they send me to Windsor. Last week I took a load of almost fifteen tons down to the barge on the Connecticut River. I help load the wagon to make sure everything is balanced and tight. My day is long but I like my job most days. I’m pretty much on my own unlike the other men who work for the company. I don’t think I’d like having a foreman looking over my shoulder all day.
I’m twenty-one years old and since my father doesn’t need me on the farm right now I need to earn some extra money. Hopefully I’ll be able to earn enough in six months to get a start on buying some land for a farm of my own. I heard I can work in the shop with a few others and board there too. This will be my first year to vote and do militia service so I’ll have to get back home for a few days. I’ll need to get home to help with the haying too.
Because I am the youngest of a large family, my father did not need me to help with the family farm. So, I needed a place to work where I could board too. We are very busy here in the spring. I am learning quickly and hope to be a cutter next year. During the rest of the year, we tend to the rest of the farm that is quite large.
See the answer key link in the right column.