Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Occupations and Wages


Machine Shop - Grand Trunk Railroad - Pointe St Charles

Finding my great-grandfather on the Montreal Census I discover he is a Brass Finisher.  What is a Brass Finisher? I thought maybe he shined brass?  Not so!

While trying to find out just what a Brass Finisher did, I came across this book by Nelson Sizer, phrenologist. If you are researching a more modern day ancestor, you may want to take a look at it.

“Choice of pursuits; or, What to do, and why, describing seventy-five trades and professions, and the talents and temperaments required for each; also, how to educate, on phrenological principles, each man for his proper work. Together with portraits and biographies of more than one hundred successful thinkers and workers. – 1897”

The “portraits and biographies” are of well-known people in some of the trades they talk about.  It is a remake of his book The Road to Wealth and How to Follow It, 1882. Especially read under the chapter How to Educate, the part on "Conscientiousness".  Education starts in the nursery!



So I found that a brass finisher’s work is very precise. My great grandfather worked in the machine shop of the Grand Trunk Railroad, breathing in metal dust all day.  He died at the age of 60.

There is another free ebook at google called: Report: of the Royal Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labor in Canada. (Quebec Part II 1889). The beginning is Q&A with various labourers, how many employees they hire, how many hours worked, etc. Scroll down to about page 1367 alphabetical list of names of witnesses, and they talk about wages, and in some instances give the amounts.


The 1901 and 1911 Census of Canada asked for people to state their wages.  My Brass Finishing ancestor in 1901 stated he worked the 12 months and earned about $600 for the year. In 1911 he stated he worked 52 weeks, for 56 hours a week and earned $365 for the year of 1910. (Note that on the 1911 Census they asked for occupations of persons 10 years of age and over.) So what happened that almost 10 years later he is making half the wages?

You can also find wages in the Sessional papers.




Relevant Links:


Royal Road to Wealth: How to Find and Follow It 1882 - (trade/occupation descriptions)

Choice of pursuits, or, What to do and why(what it takes to master certain trades)


Historic Value of Euro and other monies (good info on full site)


Comparative Wages, Prices, and Cost of Living 1885 (free ebook google)


History of Wages in the United States from Colonial Times to 1928


Alphabetic Index of Occupations - US - gives industry for the occupations

Wages in the United Kingdom in the 19th Century - 1900






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