Cowboys and Coffin-Makers: One Hundred 19th-century Jobs You Might Have Feared or Fancied (Jobs in History)

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9781554510672: Cowboys and Coffin-Makers: One Hundred 19th-century Jobs You Might Have Feared or Fancied (Jobs in History)
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An eye-opening guide to 100 career options in 19th-century America.

If you could live in 19th-century America, what job would you want? Sheriff? Prospector? Westbound settlers created many such opportunities, but the country's economy also involved "careers" no one would ever choose, like slavery.

Explore this unique job guide and witness the sweeping changes of the 1800s through the eyes of the workers who helped shape it. You'll discover frontier jobs like cartographer (don't mistake a buffalo herd for a forest, as one unlucky mapmaker did) and wartime jobs (doughboys, for example). Some occupations lost out to new technology (glassblowers couldn't compete with 1,800 bottles-per-hour machines). Others were created because of it (elevator drivers). Social reformers, meanwhile, sought to change the world itself.

Featuring a timeline of the 1800s and upbeat illustrations, this fascinating guide is sure to employ readers' senses of history and humor.

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About the Author:

Laurie Coulter is the author of five other non-fiction books for young people, including To Be a Princess: The Fascinating Lives of Real Princesses and When John and Caroline Lived in the White House.

Martha Newbigging is a graphic designer and film animator, and the illustrator of several books for children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


This book is about the great changes that took place in 19th century America and how those changes affected people's jobs in good or nasty ways. It looks at ordinary lives rather than famous people and events, because entire books have been written on one person, or one war, or one invention. If this book encourages you to read more on this incredible century, it will have done its job well.

The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the1700s. It made that small island country the most powerful trading nation in the world during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 190. (She's the reason people from that time are called Victorians.) Newly invented machines that ran on the energy of high-pressure steam sped up the mining of coal and the production of textiles, iron, and manufactured goods. The British flooded the world with their factory-made products.

For a time, Americans looked down their noses at the poorly paid men, women, and children slogging away in the horrible working conditions of Britain's factories. They were happy to be farmers, craftspeople, or merchants importing British goods. Gradually, though, British technical knowledge made its way across the Atlantic, and Americans began getting in on the act. Sometimes they put a new lever on this machine or a new wheel on that machine and came up with better machines. The American Industrial Revolution may have had a slow start, but the country caught up so quickly that by the end of the 19th century it had overtaken Britain as the world's leading industrial nation.

You may have heard about futureshock: it's being stressed out by rapid technological change. Well, Americans in the 1800s were one shocked bunch. For the most part, they adjusted well and found many of the changes exciting. People were amazed at how quickly they could cross the country on the new trains or zoom up a building in the new elevators. At first they weren't even sure it was safe to travel so fast or in such strange contraptions.

The many changes in this century didn't begin and end with machines. People were also bombarded with new scientific discoveries and new ideas about slavery, religion, politics, workers' rights, education, public health -- the list goes on. Victorians may have been "future-shocked" by the Industrial Revolution, but they loved to talk and read about it,

Horace Wifflehammer's Job

To get an idea of how one particular job changed from the beginning to the end of the century, let's take a peek at how office clerk Horace Wifflehammer spends his day. In the early 1800s,Horace walks to his job in a small building lit by oil lamps on gloomy days. He works with his uncle, who runs an import-export business that brings foreign manufactured goods into the country and sends American cotton, whale oil, fish, furs, and lumber overseas. While another clerk adds up figures in an account book, Horace writes letters with a quill pen. His uncle works beside him, training his nephew in the business.

By the end of the century, Horace rides an electric trolley to work from his home in the suburbs, takes an elevator up to his gaslit office, and works with dozens of other clerks for a large rail-road company. He uses a machine to add up figures, writes with a fountain pen, telephones distant customers, and works alongside -- gasp! -- a woman. She taps out letters on a typewriter while a manager tells Horace what to do. He's never met the owner of the business.

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9781554510689: Cowboys and Coffin-Makers: One Hundred 19th-century Jobs You Might Have Feared or Fancied (Jobs in History)

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ISBN 10:  1554510686 ISBN 13:  9781554510689
Publisher: Annick Press, 2007

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Laurie Coulter
Published by Annick Press (2007)
ISBN 10: 1554510678 ISBN 13: 9781554510672
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Book Description Annick Press, 2007. Condition: New. Martha Newbigging (illustrator). book. Seller Inventory # M1554510678

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