15 Most Common Jobs 150 Years Ago in Michigan

(Photo via South Haven Visitors Bureau)

By Stacker

October 21, 2022

Stacker compiled a list of the most common jobs in Michigan 150 years ago using data transcribed from the 1870 US Census.

MICHIGAN—The US economy that we know today has a long and storied history of expansions, recessions, and evolution. At the time of the American Revolution, most of the job market in the US revolved around agriculture or food acquisition in some way.

Many individuals and communities farmed for subsistence, not even growing enough to have an excess to sell for profits. As the fledgling country grew, so did its economy, springing forth during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s and early 1800s, and inexorably shifting the nation’s economic focus from agrarian efforts to those of manufacturing, trade, and other forms of business.

Inventions like the steam engine and cotton gin accelerated production, feeding a booming job market that was met with immigrants eager to find work.By the mid- to late-1800s, the US economy and job market was characterized by successive periods of rapid growth followed by panics or depressions.

This economic disquiet was caused by stock speculation and oscillating levels of trust in the federal government’s ability to regulate cash flow and support banks. In turn, the uncertain economy produced a volatile job market.

In an effort to capture a snapshot of the US job market’s history, Stacker compiled a list of the most common jobs in Michigan from 150 years ago using data from the US Census Bureau. By transcribing the Table XXVII from the 1870 decennial census, a glimpse into the historic job market can be seen.

Nationally, farmers and planters were the most common occupation 150 years ago, just one of the many agricultural jobs that made up more than 47% of all employed persons over ten years old. Continue reading to find out more about the historical job market in Michigan—or explore the data on your own.

1. Farmers and Planters

Michigan employment: 121,558

National employment: 2,977,711 (#1)

2. Agricultural Laborers

Michigan employment: 64,885

National employment: 2,885,996 (#2)

3. Domestic Servants

Michigan employment: 49,005

National employment: 975,734 (#4)

4. Laborers

Michigan employment: 36,034

National employment: 1,031,666 (#3)

5. Carpenters and Joiners

Michigan employment: 14,693

National employment: 344,596 (#5)

6. Saw-mill Operatives

Michigan employment: 10,356

National employment: 47,298 (#25)

7. Clerks in stores

Michigan employment: 5,561

National employment: 222,504 (#6)

8. Blacksmiths

Michigan employment: 4,730

National employment: 141,774 (#11)

9. Teachers

Michigan employment: 4,708

National employment: 126,822 (#12)

10. Boot and shoe makers

Michigan employment: 3,605

National employment: 171,127 (#7)

11. Miners

Michigan employment: 3,426

National employment: 152,107 (#10)

12. Railroad Employees

Michigan employment: 3,257

National employment: 154,027 (#9)

13. Brick and Stone Masons

Michigan employment: 3,196

National employment: 89,710 (#17)

14. Tailors, Tailoresses, and Seamstresses

Michigan employment: 3,121

National employment: 161,820 (#8)

15. Draymen, Hackmen, Teamsters

Michigan employment: 2,939

National employment: 120,756 (#13)

This article has been re-published pursuant to a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.


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