If you were a pioneer, what would your job be? Would you go to college? How would you earn money? Would you retire at age 65? Let’s find out.
- Most pioneer communities were based on an agricultural economy. That means that the communities revolved around farms. Farmers were usually the first ones to start a community.
- Other businesses came to support the farmers. These included a general store where people could buy supplies like sugar, flour, nails, fabric, or medicine. Towns usually had at least one inn and one saloon. There might be a town doctor, a priest, and a teacher.
- Blacksmiths made horseshoes, gates, and metal tools. A farrier took care of horses and replaced their shoes. Men might also be hunters, trappers, silversmiths, or carpenters.
- Few people went to college, but were apprenticed to learn a trade from a blacksmith, carpenter, or other tradesman. Doctors, teachers, and lawyers usually went to college.
- Some forward thinking communities supported the arts, including music, literature, and the visual arts. They built libraries and concert halls. Artists painted murals and portraits.
- Women had few career options. Most worked at home, but some became teachers, domestic helpers, or artists.
- The four most common occupations included farmworker, carpenter, domestic helper (housekeeper), and a day laborer (miscellaneous work). People working at these jobs earned between .78 and $2.00 per day in 1860, depending on where they lived. Some jobs included room and board (free housing and meals). This means they would have earned less than $500 per year.
- Eggs cost around .33 a dozen, while pioneers could buy a barrel of flour for $8. Fabric to make clothing cost .19 a yard, and you could rent a four-room house for $10 a month.
- People did not retire at age 65. They kept working until they died or couldn’t work anymore.
- Retire: Leave the work force
- Forward thinking: to thoughtfully consider the future, as well as multiple priorities
- Occupation: job
Questions and Answers
Question: What parts of the country were the wealthiest?
Answer: In New England lived many prosperous families whose ancestors had lived there for generations. These people were usually well educated and had more resources than most.
California became a wealthy state in the mid-to-late 1800s with the discovery of gold and rich farm land. Wealthy plantation owners lived in the South, although much of that wealth was destroyed during the Civil War.
Watch a video about a blacksmith shop.