Most common jobs 150 years ago in West Virginia

Written by:
August 5, 2022
Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

Most common jobs 150 years ago in West 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 West 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: Best counties to live in West Virginia

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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#1. Farmers and planters

- West Virginia employment: 43,702
- National employment: 2,977,711
--- #1 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#2. Agricultural laborers

- West Virginia employment: 30,087
- National employment: 2,885,996
--- #2 most common job in the U.S.
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English Heritage/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#3. Domestic servants

- West Virginia employment: 6,676
- 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)

- West Virginia employment: 5,815
- 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

- West Virginia employment: 2,526
- 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)

- West Virginia employment: 2,504
- National employment: 154,027
--- #9 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#7. Miners

- West Virginia employment: 1,525
- National employment: 152,107
--- #10 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#8. Blacksmiths

- West Virginia employment: 1,423
- National employment: 141,774
--- #11 most common job in the U.S.
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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#9. Iron and steel rolling-mill operatives

- West Virginia employment: 1,366
- National employment: 17,249
--- #65 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#10. Clerks in stores

- West Virginia employment: 1,228
- National employment: 222,504
--- #6 most common job in the U.S.
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Frances Benjamin Johnston // Library of Congress

#11. Boot and shoe makers

- West Virginia employment: 1,066
- National employment: 171,127
--- #7 most common job in the U.S.
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Maurice Ambler // Getty Images

#12. Coopers

- West Virginia employment: 940
- National employment: 41,789
--- #32 most common job in the U.S.
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Everett Collection // Shutterstock

#13. Teachers (not specified)

- West Virginia employment: 866
- National employment: 126,822
--- #12 most common job in the U.S.
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Carl Mydans // Library of Congress

#14. Masons, brick and stone

- West Virginia employment: 774
- National employment: 89,710
--- #17 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#15. Tailors, tailoresses, and seamstresses

- West Virginia employment: 730
- National employment: 161,820
--- #8 most common job in the U.S.
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Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#16. Millers

- West Virginia employment: 726
- National employment: 41,582
--- #34 most common job in the U.S.
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Charles Phelps Cushing/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#17. Traders and dealers (not specified)

- West Virginia employment: 718
- 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

#18. Physicians and surgeons

- West Virginia employment: 612
- National employment: 62,383
--- #20 most common job in the U.S.
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Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#19. Draymen, hackmen, teamsters, &c

- West Virginia employment: 565
- National employment: 120,756
--- #13 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#20. Officials of Government

- West Virginia employment: 483
- National employment: 44,743
--- #26 most common job in the U.S.
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Gari Melchers // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Clergymen

- West Virginia employment: 466
- National employment: 43,874
--- #28 most common job in the U.S.
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Corbis via Getty Images

#22. Lawyers

- West Virginia employment: 400
- National employment: 40,736
--- #35 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#23. Engineers and firemen

- West Virginia employment: 370
- National employment: 34,233
--- #40 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#24. Traders and dealers in dry-goods

- West Virginia employment: 368
- National employment: 39,790
--- #37 most common job in the U.S.
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#25. Traders and dealers in groceries

- West Virginia employment: 342
- National employment: 74,410
--- #19 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#26. Glass-works operatives

- West Virginia employment: 324
- National employment: 9,518
--- #89 most common job in the U.S.
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Kirn Vintage Stock//Corbis via Getty Images

#27. Brick and tile makers

- West Virginia employment: 324
- National employment: 26,070
--- #50 most common job in the U.S.
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Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Painters and varnishers

- West Virginia employment: 305
- National employment: 85,123
--- #18 most common job in the U.S.
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Matthias Weaver // Library of Congress

#29. Carriage and wagon makers

- West Virginia employment: 288
- National employment: 42,464
--- #31 most common job in the U.S.
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Daily Herald Archive/National Science & Media Museum/SSPL via Getty Images

#30. Harness and saddle makers

- West Virginia employment: 274
- National employment: 32,817
--- #41 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#31. Saw-mill operatives

- West Virginia employment: 267
- National employment: 47,298
--- #25 most common job in the U.S.
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Smith Collection/Gado // Getty Images

#32. Manufacturers

- West Virginia employment: 252
- National employment: 42,877
--- #29 most common job in the U.S.
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Historical Picture Archive/Corbis via Getty Images

#33. Cabinetmakers

- West Virginia employment: 236
- National employment: 42,835
--- #30 most common job in the U.S.
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Andreas Larsen Dahl/Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#34. Wheelwrights

- West Virginia employment: 229
- National employment: 20,942
--- #58 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#35. Milliners, dress and mantua makers

- West Virginia employment: 228
- National employment: 92,084
--- #16 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#36. Launderers and laundresses

- West Virginia employment: 225
- National employment: 60,906
--- #21 most common job in the U.S.
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John C.H. Grabill // Library of Congress

#37. Hotel-keepers

- West Virginia employment: 223
- National employment: 26,394
--- #49 most common job in the U.S.
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Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty Images

#38. Curriers, tanners, and finishers of leather

- West Virginia employment: 202
- National employment: 28,702
--- #45 most common job in the U.S.
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Schenectady Museum/Hall of Electrical History Foundation/Corbis via Getty Images

#39. Employees of manufacturing establishments

- West Virginia employment: 195
- National employment: 20,242
--- #59 most common job in the U.S.
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London Metropolitan Archives/Heritage Images // Getty Images

#40. Machinists

- West Virginia employment: 194
- National employment: 54,755
--- #24 most common job in the U.S.
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Frances Benjamin Johnston // Library of Congress

#41. Salt-makers

- West Virginia employment: 188
- National employment: 1,721
--- #206 most common job in the U.S.
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Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

#42. Printers

- West Virginia employment: 186
- National employment: 39,860
--- #36 most common job in the U.S.
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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

#43. Butchers

- West Virginia employment: 184
- National employment: 44,354
--- #27 most common job in the U.S.
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ullstein bild via Getty Images

#44. Plasterers

- West Virginia employment: 174
- National employment: 23,577
--- #53 most common job in the U.S.
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GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#45. Iron-foundry operatives

- West Virginia employment: 171
- National employment: 34,245
--- #39 most common job in the U.S.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#46. Boatmen and watermen

- West Virginia employment: 149
- National employment: 21,332
--- #57 most common job in the U.S.
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#47. Tinners

- West Virginia employment: 145
- National employment: 30,524
--- #44 most common job in the U.S.
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Bain News Service // Library of Congress

#48. Cigar-makers

- West Virginia employment: 140
- National employment: 28,286
--- #46 most common job in the U.S.
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Seneca Ray Stoddard/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

#49. Restaurant-keepers

- West Virginia employment: 134
- National employment: 35,185
--- #38 most common job in the U.S.
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Lewis W. Hine // Library of Congress

#50. Woolen-mill operatives

- West Virginia employment: 132
- National employment: 58,836
--- #22 most common job in the U.S.

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