Most common jobs 150 years ago in Illinois

Written by:
August 5, 2022
John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

Most common jobs 150 years ago in Illinois

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 Illinois 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.

You may also like: Counties with the highest rate of food insecure children in Illinois

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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#1. Farmers and planters

- Illinois employment: 240,256
- National employment: 2,977,711
--- #1 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#2. Agricultural laborers

- Illinois employment: 133,649
- National employment: 2,885,996
--- #2 most common job in the U.S.
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Alexander Alland, Sr./CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#3. Laborers (not specified)

- Illinois employment: 63,130
- National employment: 1,031,666
--- #3 most common job in the U.S.
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English Heritage/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#4. Domestic servants

- Illinois employment: 44,903
- National employment: 975,734
--- #4 most common job in the U.S.
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Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

#5. Carpenters and joiners

- Illinois employment: 23,040
- National employment: 344,596
--- #5 most common job in the U.S.
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SSPL // Getty Images

#6. Employees of railroad companies (not clerks)

- Illinois employment: 14,946
- National employment: 154,027
--- #9 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#7. Clerks in stores

- Illinois employment: 13,980
- National employment: 222,504
--- #6 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#8. Blacksmiths

- Illinois employment: 9,412
- National employment: 141,774
--- #11 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#9. Teachers (not specified)

- Illinois employment: 8,869
- National employment: 126,822
--- #12 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#10. Tailors, tailoresses, and seamstresses

- Illinois employment: 7,919
- National employment: 161,820
--- #8 most common job in the U.S.
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Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#11. Draymen, hackmen, teamsters, &c

- Illinois employment: 7,879
- National employment: 120,756
--- #13 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#12. Miners

- Illinois employment: 6,954
- National employment: 152,107
--- #10 most common job in the U.S.
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Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Painters and varnishers

- Illinois employment: 6,294
- National employment: 85,123
--- #18 most common job in the U.S.
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Frances Benjamin Johnston // Library of Congress

#14. Boot and shoe makers

- Illinois employment: 6,279
- National employment: 171,127
--- #7 most common job in the U.S.
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Charles Phelps Cushing/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#15. Traders and dealers (not specified)

- Illinois employment: 6,172
- National employment: 100,406
--- #15 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#16. Milliners, dress and mantua makers

- Illinois employment: 5,224
- National employment: 92,084
--- #16 most common job in the U.S.
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Carl Mydans // Library of Congress

#17. Masons, brick and stone

- Illinois employment: 5,218
- 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

#18. Physicians and surgeons

- Illinois employment: 4,861
- National employment: 62,383
--- #20 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#19. Traders and dealers in groceries

- Illinois employment: 4,676
- National employment: 74,410
--- #19 most common job in the U.S.
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Seneca Ray Stoddard/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

#20. Restaurant-keepers

- Illinois employment: 3,578
- National employment: 35,185
--- #38 most common job in the U.S.
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Maurice Ambler // Getty Images

#21. Coopers

- Illinois employment: 3,550
- National employment: 41,789
--- #32 most common job in the U.S.
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Matthias Weaver // Library of Congress

#22. Carriage and wagon makers

- Illinois employment: 3,534
- National employment: 42,464
--- #31 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#23. Officials of Government

- Illinois employment: 3,301
- National employment: 44,743
--- #26 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#24. Butchers

- Illinois employment: 3,209
- National employment: 44,354
--- #27 most common job in the U.S.
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Gari Melchers // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Clergymen

- Illinois employment: 3,192
- National employment: 43,874
--- #28 most common job in the U.S.
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Museum of the City of New York/Byron Co. Collection // Getty Images

#26. Employees of hotels and restaurants (not clerks)

- Illinois employment: 3,067
- National employment: 23,438
--- #54 most common job in the U.S.
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London Metropolitan Archives/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#27. Machinists

- Illinois employment: 2,956
- National employment: 54,755
--- #24 most common job in the U.S.
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Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#28. Millers

- Illinois employment: 2,865
- National employment: 41,582
--- #34 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#29. Traders and dealers in dry-goods

- Illinois employment: 2,776
- National employment: 39,790
--- #37 most common job in the U.S.
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Corbis via Getty Images

#30. Lawyers

- Illinois employment: 2,683
- National employment: 40,736
--- #35 most common job in the U.S.
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Daily Herald Archive/National Science & Media Museum/SSPL via Getty Images

#31. Harness and saddle makers

- Illinois employment: 2,682
- National employment: 32,817
--- #41 most common job in the U.S.
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Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

#32. Printers

- Illinois employment: 2,499
- National employment: 39,860
--- #36 most common job in the U.S.
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ullstein bild via Getty Images

#33. Plasterers

- Illinois employment: 2,357
- National employment: 23,577
--- #53 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#34. Gardeners and nurserymen

- Illinois employment: 2,162
- National employment: 31,435
--- #42 most common job in the U.S.
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Historical Picture Archive/Corbis via Getty Images

#35. Cabinetmakers

- Illinois employment: 2,103
- National employment: 42,835
--- #30 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#36. Book-keepers and accountants in stores

- Illinois employment: 2,074
- National employment: 31,177
--- #43 most common job in the U.S.
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Smith Collection/Gado // Getty Images

#37. Manufacturers

- Illinois employment: 1,987
- National employment: 42,877
--- #29 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#38. Engineers and firemen

- Illinois employment: 1,977
- National employment: 34,233
--- #40 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#39. Tinners

- Illinois employment: 1,953
- National employment: 30,524
--- #44 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#40. Mill and factory operatives (not specified)

- Illinois employment: 1,887
- National employment: 41,619
--- #33 most common job in the U.S.
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Schenectady Museum/Hall of Electrical History Foundation/Corbis via Getty Images

#41. Employees of manufacturing establishments

- Illinois employment: 1,842
- National employment: 20,242
--- #59 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#42. Sailors

- Illinois employment: 1,829
- National employment: 56,663
--- #23 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#43. Laborers

- Illinois employment: 1,760
- National employment: 14,882
--- #72 most common job in the U.S.
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Levin C. Handy // Library of Congerss

#44. Marble and stone cutters

- Illinois employment: 1,734
- National employment: 25,831
--- #51 most common job in the U.S.
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Kirn Vintage Stock//Corbis via Getty Images

#45. Brick and tile makers

- Illinois employment: 1,720
- National employment: 26,070
--- #50 most common job in the U.S.
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GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#46. Iron-foundry operatives

- Illinois employment: 1,670
- National employment: 34,245
--- #39 most common job in the U.S.
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Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images

#47. Commercial travelers

- Illinois employment: 1,656
- National employment: 7,262
--- #115 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#48. Barbers and hairdressers

- Illinois employment: 1,650
- National employment: 23,935
--- #52 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#49. Traders and dealers in drugs and medicines

- Illinois employment: 1,626
- National employment: 17,369
--- #63 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#50. Hotel-keepers

- Illinois employment: 1,577
- National employment: 26,394
--- #49 most common job in the U.S.

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