Most common jobs 150 years ago in California

Written by:
August 5, 2022
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Most common jobs 150 years ago in California

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact the global economy, the current job market is a hot topic in the news cycle. But while the pandemic itself is, historically, something of an economic aberration, the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. job market’s history, Stacker compiled a list of the most common jobs in California from 150 years ago using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. By transcribing the previously untranscribed Table XXVII from the 1870 decennial census, a state-level 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 your home state or explore the data on your own on our site, GitHub, or data.world.

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Alexander Alland, Sr./CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#1. Laborers (not specified)

- California employment: 37,586
- National employment: 1,031,666
--- #3 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#2. Miners

- California employment: 36,330
- National employment: 152,107
--- #10 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#3. Farmers and planters

- California employment: 24,061
- National employment: 2,977,711
--- #1 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#4. Agricultural laborers

- California employment: 16,231
- National employment: 2,885,996
--- #2 most common job in the U.S.
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English Heritage/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#5. Domestic servants

- California employment: 15,472
- National employment: 975,734
--- #4 most common job in the U.S.
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Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

#6. Carpenters and joiners

- California employment: 7,413
- National employment: 344,596
--- #5 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#7. Clerks in stores

- California employment: 5,040
- National employment: 222,504
--- #6 most common job in the U.S.
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Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#8. Draymen, hackmen, teamsters, &c

- California employment: 4,582
- National employment: 120,756
--- #13 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#9. Launderers and laundresses

- California employment: 4,043
- National employment: 60,906
--- #21 most common job in the U.S.
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Charles Phelps Cushing/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#10. Traders and dealers (not specified)

- California employment: 3,517
- National employment: 100,406
--- #15 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#11. Blacksmiths

- California employment: 3,310
- National employment: 141,774
--- #11 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#12. Sailors

- California employment: 2,531
- National employment: 56,663
--- #23 most common job in the U.S.
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Frances Benjamin Johnston // Library of Congress

#13. Boot and shoe makers

- California employment: 2,501
- National employment: 171,127
--- #7 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#14. Gardeners and nurserymen

- California employment: 2,355
- National employment: 31,435
--- #42 most common job in the U.S.
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Seneca Ray Stoddard/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

#15. Restaurant-keepers

- California employment: 2,347
- National employment: 35,185
--- #38 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#16. Teachers (not specified)

- California employment: 1,953
- National employment: 126,822
--- #12 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#17. Stock-herders

- California employment: 1,930
- National employment: 5,590
--- #128 most common job in the U.S.
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Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#18. Cigar-makers

- California employment: 1,900
- National employment: 28,286
--- #46 most common job in the U.S.
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Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#19. Stock-raisers

- California employment: 1,860
- National employment: 6,588
--- #120 most common job in the U.S.
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Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Painters and varnishers

- California employment: 1,850
- National employment: 85,123
--- #18 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#21. Traders and dealers in groceries

- California employment: 1,840
- National employment: 74,410
--- #19 most common job in the U.S.
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SSPL // Getty Images

#22. Employees of railroad companies (not clerks)

- California employment: 1,742
- National employment: 154,027
--- #9 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#23. Tailors, tailoresses, and seamstresses

- California employment: 1,708
- National employment: 161,820
--- #8 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#24. Butchers

- California employment: 1,686
- National employment: 44,354
--- #27 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#25. Milliners, dress and mantua makers

- California employment: 1,507
- National employment: 92,084
--- #16 most common job in the U.S.
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The Albertype Co. // Library of Congress

#26. Lumbermen and raftsmen

- California employment: 1,366
- National employment: 17,752
--- #61 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#27. Officials of Government

- California employment: 1,282
- National employment: 44,743
--- #26 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#28. Physicians and surgeons

- California employment: 1,257
- National employment: 62,383
--- #20 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#29. Barbers and hairdressers

- California employment: 1,154
- National employment: 23,935
--- #52 most common job in the U.S.
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Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#30. Woodchoppers

- California employment: 1,151
- National employment: 8,338
--- #99 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#31. Saw-mill operatives

- California employment: 1,150
- National employment: 47,298
--- #25 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#32. Hotel-keepers

- California employment: 1,116
- National employment: 26,394
--- #49 most common job in the U.S.
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Corbis via Getty Images

#33. Lawyers

- California employment: 1,115
- National employment: 40,736
--- #35 most common job in the U.S.
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Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

#34. Printers

- California employment: 1,045
- National employment: 39,860
--- #36 most common job in the U.S.
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Archive Photos // Getty Images

#35. Dairymen and dairywomen

- California employment: 1,010
- National employment: 3,550
--- #157 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#36. Tinners

- California employment: 998
- National employment: 30,524
--- #44 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#37. Engineers and firemen

- California employment: 979
- National employment: 34,233
--- #40 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#38. Barkeepers

- California employment: 955
- National employment: 14,362
--- #74 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine/Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#39. Fishermen and oystermen

- California employment: 951
- National employment: 27,106
--- #48 most common job in the U.S.
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#40. Soldiers (United States Army)

- California employment: 940
- National employment: 22,081
--- #56 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#41. Laborers

- California employment: 914
- National employment: 14,882
--- #72 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#42. Book-keepers and accountants in stores

- California employment: 890
- National employment: 31,177
--- #43 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#43. Bakers

- California employment: 870
- National employment: 27,680
--- #47 most common job in the U.S.
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Turrill & Miller of San Francisco/Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#44. Hostlers

- California employment: 840
- National employment: 17,586
--- #62 most common job in the U.S.
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Smith Collection/Gado // Getty Images

#45. Manufacturers

- California employment: 819
- National employment: 42,877
--- #29 most common job in the U.S.
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Chicago History Museum // Getty Images

#46. Boarding and lodging house keepers

- California employment: 763
- National employment: 12,785
--- #77 most common job in the U.S.
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Schenectady Museum/Hall of Electrical History Foundation/Corbis via Getty Images

#47. Employees of manufacturing establishments

- California employment: 731
- National employment: 20,242
--- #59 most common job in the U.S.
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Daily Herald Archive/National Science & Media Museum/SSPL via Getty Images

#48. Harness and saddle makers

- California employment: 719
- National employment: 32,817
--- #41 most common job in the U.S.
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Carl Mydans // Library of Congress

#49. Masons, brick and stone

- California employment: 714
- National employment: 89,710
--- #17 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#50. Porters in stores and warehouses

- California employment: 671
- National employment: 16,631
--- #67 most common job in the U.S.

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