• Pioneer Jobs

    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.

    Fun Facts

    • 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.

    Vocabulary

    1. Retire: Leave the work force
    2. Forward thinking: to thoughtfully consider the future, as well as multiple priorities
    3. 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.

     

    Learn More

    Watch a video about a blacksmith shop.

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