Most common jobs 150 years ago in Virginia

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August 5, 2022
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Most common jobs 150 years ago in Virginia

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 Virginia 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 Virginia

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#1. Agricultural laborers

- Virginia employment: 162,604
- National employment: 2,885,996
--- #2 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#2. Farmers and planters

- Virginia employment: 80,739
- National employment: 2,977,711
--- #1 most common job in the U.S.
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English Heritage/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#3. Domestic servants

- Virginia employment: 54,008
- National employment: 975,734
--- #4 most common job in the U.S.
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Alexander Alland, Sr./CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#4. Laborers (not specified)

- Virginia employment: 27,730
- National employment: 1,031,666
--- #3 most common job in the U.S.
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Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

#5. Carpenters and joiners

- Virginia employment: 6,912
- National employment: 344,596
--- #5 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#6. Tobacco-factory operatives

- Virginia employment: 6,073
- National employment: 11,985
--- #80 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#7. Blacksmiths

- Virginia employment: 4,077
- National employment: 141,774
--- #11 most common job in the U.S.
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#8. Clerks in stores

- Virginia employment: 3,680
- National employment: 222,504
--- #6 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#9. Launderers and laundresses

- Virginia employment: 3,623
- National employment: 60,906
--- #21 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine/Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#10. Fishermen and oystermen

- Virginia employment: 3,580
- National employment: 27,106
--- #48 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#11. Tailors, tailoresses, and seamstresses

- Virginia employment: 3,130
- National employment: 161,820
--- #8 most common job in the U.S.
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Frances Benjamin Johnston // Library of Congress

#12. Boot and shoe makers

- Virginia employment: 2,986
- National employment: 171,127
--- #7 most common job in the U.S.
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SSPL // Getty Images

#13. Employees of railroad companies (not clerks)

- Virginia employment: 2,944
- National employment: 154,027
--- #9 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#14. Teachers (not specified)

- Virginia employment: 2,521
- National employment: 126,822
--- #12 most common job in the U.S.
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Charles Phelps Cushing/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#15. Traders and dealers (not specified)

- Virginia employment: 2,355
- National employment: 100,406
--- #15 most common job in the U.S.
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#16. Physicians and surgeons

- Virginia employment: 2,126
- National employment: 62,383
--- #20 most common job in the U.S.
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Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#17. Millers

- Virginia employment: 2,054
- National employment: 41,582
--- #34 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#18. Traders and dealers in groceries

- Virginia employment: 1,666
- National employment: 74,410
--- #19 most common job in the U.S.
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Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#19. Draymen, hackmen, teamsters, &c

- Virginia employment: 1,575
- National employment: 120,756
--- #13 most common job in the U.S.
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Carl Mydans // Library of Congress

#20. Masons, brick and stone

- Virginia employment: 1,435
- National employment: 89,710
--- #17 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#21. Officials of Government

- Virginia employment: 1,322
- National employment: 44,743
--- #26 most common job in the U.S.
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Andreas Larsen Dahl/Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#22. Wheelwrights

- Virginia employment: 1,311
- National employment: 20,942
--- #58 most common job in the U.S.
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Maurice Ambler // Getty Images

#23. Coopers

- Virginia employment: 1,213
- National employment: 41,789
--- #32 most common job in the U.S.
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#24. Sailors

- Virginia employment: 1,183
- National employment: 56,663
--- #23 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#25. Mill and factory operatives (not specified)

- Virginia employment: 1,090
- National employment: 41,619
--- #33 most common job in the U.S.
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#26. Lawyers

- Virginia employment: 1,075
- National employment: 40,736
--- #35 most common job in the U.S.
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Gari Melchers // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Clergymen

- Virginia employment: 1,073
- National employment: 43,874
--- #28 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#28. Miners

- Virginia employment: 1,025
- National employment: 152,107
--- #10 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#29. Traders and dealers in dry-goods

- Virginia employment: 921
- National employment: 39,790
--- #37 most common job in the U.S.
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Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Painters and varnishers

- Virginia employment: 836
- National employment: 85,123
--- #18 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#31. Gardeners and nurserymen

- Virginia employment: 776
- National employment: 31,435
--- #42 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#32. Milliners, dress and mantua makers

- Virginia employment: 748
- National employment: 92,084
--- #16 most common job in the U.S.
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Matthias Weaver // Library of Congress

#33. Carriage and wagon makers

- Virginia employment: 740
- National employment: 42,464
--- #31 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Cotton-mill operatives

- Virginia employment: 723
- National employment: 111,606
--- #14 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#35. Boatmen and watermen

- Virginia employment: 644
- National employment: 21,332
--- #57 most common job in the U.S.
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GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#36. Iron-foundry operatives

- Virginia employment: 559
- National employment: 34,245
--- #39 most common job in the U.S.
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Daily Herald Archive/National Science & Media Museum/SSPL via Getty Images

#37. Harness and saddle makers

- Virginia employment: 554
- National employment: 32,817
--- #41 most common job in the U.S.
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Historical Picture Archive/Corbis via Getty Images

#38. Cabinetmakers

- Virginia employment: 545
- National employment: 42,835
--- #30 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#39. Hucksters

- Virginia employment: 525
- National employment: 17,362
--- #64 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#40. Nurses

- Virginia employment: 498
- National employment: 10,976
--- #86 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#41. Saw-mill operatives

- Virginia employment: 496
- National employment: 47,298
--- #25 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#42. Butchers

- Virginia employment: 489
- National employment: 44,354
--- #27 most common job in the U.S.
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SSPL // Getty Images

#43. Carpet-makers

- Virginia employment: 488
- National employment: 15,669
--- #70 most common job in the U.S.
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Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

#44. Printers

- Virginia employment: 478
- National employment: 39,860
--- #36 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#45. Porters in stores and warehouses

- Virginia employment: 471
- National employment: 16,631
--- #67 most common job in the U.S.
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#46. Soldiers (United States Army)

- Virginia employment: 464
- National employment: 22,081
--- #56 most common job in the U.S.
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London Metropolitan Archives/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#47. Machinists

- Virginia employment: 446
- National employment: 54,755
--- #24 most common job in the U.S.
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Imagno // Getty Images

#48. Whitewashers

- Virginia employment: 441
- National employment: 2,873
--- #170 most common job in the U.S.
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#49. Traders and dealers in cigars and tobacco

- Virginia employment: 430
- National employment: 8,234
--- #101 most common job in the U.S.
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ullstein bild via Getty Images

#50. Plasterers

- Virginia employment: 428
- National employment: 23,577
--- #53 most common job in the U.S.

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