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RCtheBanditQueen
01-30-2015, 01:08 AM
My work in progress that I'm plotting out is a sort-of Western. Current setting I'm playing with is Nevada, late 1880s. (Haven't picked an exact year yet.)

As I have it now (can change it to be more practical), my main character is a 17-year-old boy who is trying to support his mom and sister after his dad runs off. He gets a job in the local combination blacksmith shop/livery stable. He's doing the menial chores and grunt work, mucking stalls, feeding horses, etc.

What kind of wages is he looking at? I poked around online, but couldn't come up with anything concrete. Maybe I overlooked something...

King Neptune
01-30-2015, 01:35 AM
A dollar a day was fair pay for many jobs around that time.

http://outrunchange.com/2012/06/14/typical-wages-in-1860-through-1890/

This gives a blacksmith's pay at $0.25 per hour, or two bucks a day, or a little more. Someone running his own shop would have made more. A general assistant would have made a bit less. So the kid might have gotten anything from a dollar to a dollar fifty a day. That might have been enough to get by on, maybe.

Just noticed this on that site. The laborer's pay might work for the guy.
Here is the average weekly wage for 60 hours a week:


Occupation 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890
blacksmith, 10.68, 18.24, 15.54, 16.26
carpenter, 10.92, 24.60, 16.56, 19.32
machinist, 9.48, 15.60, 13.62, 14.58
laborers, 5.88, 9.36, 8.10, 9.06

CWatts
01-30-2015, 04:04 AM
A dollar a day was fair pay for many jobs around that time.

http://outrunchange.com/2012/06/14/typical-wages-in-1860-through-1890/

This gives a blacksmith's pay at $0.25 per hour, or two bucks a day, or a little more. Someone running his own shop would have made more. A general assistant would have made a bit less. So the kid might have gotten anything from a dollar to a dollar fifty a day. That might have been enough to get by on, maybe.

Just noticed this on that site. The laborer's pay might work for the guy.
Here is the average weekly wage for 60 hours a week:


Occupation 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890
blacksmith, 10.68, 18.24, 15.54, 16.26
carpenter, 10.92, 24.60, 16.56, 19.32
machinist, 9.48, 15.60, 13.62, 14.58
laborers, 5.88, 9.36, 8.10, 9.06


Thanks for posting this!

Something to bear in mind - the sharp dropoff in wages from 1870 to 1880 would have happened rapidly during the Panic of 1873. Your character would have been a young child at the time but his mother would certainly remember. This period was known as the Great Depression before the 1930s. Historians now call it the Long Depression.

King Neptune
01-30-2015, 04:36 AM
Thanks for posting this!

Something to bear in mind - the sharp dropoff in wages from 1870 to 1880 would have happened rapidly during the Panic of 1873. Your character would have been a young child at the time but his mother would certainly remember. This period was known as the Great Depression before the 1930s. Historians now call it the Long Depression.

That table makes note of the change. from the Panic of 1873.

RCtheBanditQueen
01-30-2015, 06:19 AM
Oh sweet!! Thanks, y'all!! This is great. Him making just enough to get by is what I was hoping for. Having ballpark numbers is awesome!

I did not know about the Panic of 1873. Learned something new today. Boy, that will be something I can make use of for other stories! :evil

Did people get lunch breaks back then? Maybe it would depend on the job...or something... (Looking for excuses to make this a really rough job for my poor MC, especially at the start. :P )

snafu1056
01-30-2015, 07:00 AM
A dollar a day would be fair for a job like that.

This might come in handy too. It's a book about Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming from 1890. It tells the history of Nevada, but also gives you a good overview of what was going on in the state at the present (late 1880's).
https://books.google.com/books?id=rsg1AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA243&dq=nevada&hl=en&sa=X&ei=n_LKVND7KuyTsQTK3oKgAQ&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=nevada&f=false

King Neptune
01-30-2015, 05:40 PM
Oh sweet!! Thanks, y'all!! This is great. Him making just enough to get by is what I was hoping for. Having ballpark numbers is awesome!

I did not know about the Panic of 1873. Learned something new today. Boy, that will be something I can make use of for other stories! :evil

Did people get lunch breaks back then? Maybe it would depend on the job...or something... (Looking for excuses to make this a really rough job for my poor MC, especially at the start. :P )

In jobs like that there were lunch breaks, and potty breaks as needed. The character probably got to have water breaks whenever necessary. Those were the advantages of working in a small business then; factory workers had somewhat worse working conditions.

If you want it to be rough, then cut out the breaks. The normal situation would have been that the boss would have provided lunch for employees; you could trim this to less than enough to keep someone going. Or the character could be sensitive to the smoke. Or the character might not be strong enough to do some of the tasks involved.

jclarkdawe
01-30-2015, 05:54 PM
His actual pay would probably be a lot below a dollar a day. He would be offered board (sleeping in the loft of the stable) and meals (prepared by the blacksmith's wife -- quality debatable). This would all be deducted from his pay.

Then the next factor would be how much competition there is in the local market. And we're assuming the blacksmith doesn't hae kids of his own.

At 17, he's a man and should be doing a man's job. And a man's job pays the money he's going to need to help his mother. I'd be more inclined to make him a teamster, which is something he might have the skill for. Another would be cowboy. Both of these would pay between $30 and $50 a month.

What did his father do for a trade? At 17, the kid should have had some skills in something. But with the sounds of dad, the family wasn't probably being well supported and junior was doing something for work. It might well be he was working for the blacksmith before dad left as unskilled labor, but learning the job.

Dad leaving causes junior to ask for a promotion. One possibility is junior takes over the wheel repair/rebuild work. Some level of specialization, but not something that needs a lot of skill. (I can give you specifics on wheel work.)

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

RCtheBanditQueen
01-30-2015, 09:19 PM
A dollar a day would be fair for a job like that.

This might come in handy too. It's a book about Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming from 1890. It tells the history of Nevada, but also gives you a good overview of what was going on in the state at the present (late 1880's).
https://books.google.com/books?id=rsg1AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA243&dq=nevada&hl=en&sa=X&ei=n_LKVND7KuyTsQTK3oKgAQ&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=nevada&f=false

OMG...Snafu, you've just officially earned the Awesome Person Of The Week Award From RC. I LOVE reading old history books. :hooray:



His actual pay would probably be a lot below a dollar a day. He would be offered board (sleeping in the loft of the stable) and meals (prepared by the blacksmith's wife -- quality debatable). This would all be deducted from his pay.

Then the next factor would be how much competition there is in the local market. And we're assuming the blacksmith doesn't hae kids of his own.

Would he have to sleep there? If he lives just a few streets over, I mean? The blacksmith probably won't have a wife (at least he doesn't right now), which means the kid would have to eat at home, I guess?



At 17, he's a man and should be doing a man's job. And a man's job pays the money he's going to need to help his mother. I'd be more inclined to make him a teamster, which is something he might have the skill for. Another would be cowboy. Both of these would pay between $30 and $50 a month.

What did his father do for a trade? At 17, the kid should have had some skills in something. But with the sounds of dad, the family wasn't probably being well supported and junior was doing something for work. It might well be he was working for the blacksmith before dad left as unskilled labor, but learning the job.

Dad has been gone for a few years, as I have it now (although I like that idea of asking for a promotion, darn it). He kind of hopped from job to job because he always got crossways with his employers. But actually him having worked as a cowboy or teamster at some point would be a good fit.

A teamster would be like freight hauling and such, yes?

At the beginning, I had it where the boy loses his job at a general store in town when it closes...so maybe he had some bookkeeping skills, working there? There aren't many openings in the local job market, so he has to take what he can get (assuming I can alight upon a reasonable scenario).


One possibility is junior takes over the wheel repair/rebuild work. Some level of specialization, but not something that needs a lot of skill. (I can give you specifics on wheel work.)

Yes, please!! Any specifics you have on that would be much appreciated!

RCtheBanditQueen
01-30-2015, 09:22 PM
If you want it to be rough, then cut out the breaks. The normal situation would have been that the boss would have provided lunch for employees; you could trim this to less than enough to keep someone going. Or the character could be sensitive to the smoke. Or the character might not be strong enough to do some of the tasks involved.

Hmm...he is a shrimpy kid, at that, so that could work... Thanks! Food for thought.

King Neptune
01-31-2015, 12:07 AM
Hmm...he is a shrimpy kid, at that, so that could work... Thanks! Food for thought.

Whatever, but if he's a shrimpy kid, then he'll have trouble being a blacksmith's assistant, but that might be what you want.

jclarkdawe
01-31-2015, 12:59 AM
He would not be a shrimpy kid working for a smithy. He'd need to be capable of handling a single and double jack (sledgehammer) for extended periods. Holding horses that don't want to be held require strength. Mucking stalls is all physical. Forcing metal to go where you want it requires muscles. I'd hire dumb with brawn every time over smart and skinny.

Very unusual for a smithy not to be married. He would be one of the town's leading citizens. Only arguments I'd accept for not being married is the smithy is a drunk or recently widowed.

Why is the general store closing down? More likely if the owner was leaving, someone would buy him out. I'd be more inclined to believe the owner selling out to someone with a big family who doesn't need the kid working there because the new owner has a lot of kids already.

Smithy will deduct the sleeping quarters from the wages, even if the kid doesn't sleep there. But the smithy probably is going to want someone there at night, so that's why the kid is going to be sleeping there. Most smithies would have their shop and boarding stable on the main street (one end or the other, not usually in the middle), while having a house off the main street. This is about economics. Main street real estate is always more expensive.

Where does the smithy eat? Smithy would probably be fine with the kid eating at home, but would probably deduct eating expenses from the kid's pay.

If the kid hops from job to job, why would anyone want to hire him? Western towns were small and everybody knew everybody. If the kid is likely to give me a load of crap, I'll hire a different kid. Hell, I'd hire the town drunk before I'd hire a mouthy kid.

Teamsters did the freighting, either with ox, horse, or mule teams. If there is no railroad into town, every needed to be freighted in. Depending upon the size of the town, it might have its own freighting company, or be served by a freight company that does several small towns. Usually it would be a several day trip from the nearest railroad to a town. Most towns did not have a railway connection.

A smithy would deal with the entire process of a wagon wheel in a small town. As the town increases in size, wagon wheels would become a specialized industry. Here are the basics of rebuilding a wagon wheel. On the outside is an iron rim. This is formed from a piece of iron somewhere between 2 to 4 inches in width, and about an 1/8 of an inch thick. It starts as a flat piece of iron, and the smithy gradually bends it, making sure not to kink it, until the two ends overlap. He then welds the two ends together.

Once it cools down, he would grind or file the inside seam so that it was flat. He would then take the rim, lay it on the ground, and start burning wood around the entire rim, heating it up so that the rim slowly expands. This process would take several hours. Once the rim has expanded sufficiently, the rim is picked up very carefully, and dropped over the wooden rim, where if you've done this right, there's a little gap. Now you let the rim cool and contract. If you've done this right, when the rim is cool, it will be tight. Do it wrong and it either crushes the wood or it is loose.

Spokes are made by finding suitable hardwood branches, which are shaped. They have to be springy enough to pop into the space between the wheel hub and the wooden rim. Spokes are something a smithy would prepare during slow periods.

The wooden part of the rim is made by steaming a hardwood and gradually bending it into shape. The overlap is formed using what is called a lap joint and nails are used to hold it. The hub is also formed from a tree, cut and shaped to size. Advanced hubs would use an iron tube insert for the axle. Primitive ones would just be wood.

Axles are made from longer straight trees, again shaped to size. Axes, adzes, rasps, and patience are the tools to make this happen. End where the wheel goes on should be capped with iron. Fit can be rather loose as these are not high speed hubs. Wheel would be held on by a bolt extending from the axle.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe