Discovering the Occupations of Early America
June 07, 2012
Do you know what a "Vulcan" is (besides an extraterrestrial life form with pointed ears)? What about a "fellmonger"? If you have never heard of some of these occupations, it is probably because they do not exist today, or the job title has changed over the years. In fact, a "Vulcan" is another name for a blacksmith, and a "fellmonger" is someone who deals or trades animal pelts.
Everett Broomall Wilson, the author of Early America at Work: A Pictorial Guide to Our Vanishing Occupations, depicts throughout his book interesting descriptions of occupations from the past which either no longer exist such as, "lamp lighter" and "town crier," or names of occupations that have changed throughout the years such as, "seedsman" to florist or "joiner" to cabinet maker. Even though the book has no index, the table of contents is divided by subjects like "Pioneers," "Public Servants," etc., making it fairly easy to reference. You may even find a description of yourself in the last chapter. Are you a "crackajack" or a "truepenny"? What really makes this book worth your time are the wonderful, detailed drawings and pictures on every page, which transports you back to early America.
What piqued my interest in old occupations was my research on English census records. As I looked through the records, I realized that I was not familiar with many of the occupations that were listed. I discovered the book Early America at Work and not only discovered some interesting occupations, but also learned a little something about their history. If you are looking for some fun words to add to your vocabulary, or just enjoy learning about past and often forgotten occupations in American history, this book is for you.
Jolene C. & Faye C.
Midwest Genealogy Center