We’ve been looking at surprising things you don’t know about 1816. That was the year Pittsburgh got big enough to become a city. So far, we’ve learned:
- There was no summer that year.
- The City of Bridges had no bridges yet.
- Public love-making was quite popular (waltzing).
- You paid nothing to mail a letter. You paid a lot to get one.
Now, we’ll send you back to 1816 to look for a job. Someone’s written a resume for you. Problem is you probably don’t know half the occupations listed on it. The following test may help.
The occupations on this test came from a Pittsburgh directory compiled in 1815.
- Skin dressers got animal skins ready for the manufacture of clothing and footwear.
- Drayman hauled heavy loads on sturdy carts called drayers.
- Milliners made and/or sold women’s hats. Men went to hatters.
- Two very different jobs with the same name. One dealt in boat equipment. The other household items.
- Glovers made and/or sold gloves.
- White-smiths typically worked in metals like pewter and tin. They usually do not require firing.
- Pittsburgh made much of the nation’s nails cut from iron strips.
- Carters drove smaller vehicles than waggoners or draymen. They could be pulled by horses, dogs or goats. In a pinch, you do the pulling.
- The directory politely lists retired judges and ne’er-do-wells as gentlemen.
- Mantua-makers fabricated fancy dresses for women. There were two in Pittsburgh. The name comes from an extreme form of either Italian or French fashion.
- Fancy carriage liners and ladies shoes were made of goat skin prepared in the Moroccan fashion.
Get the Job You Want
In addition, the names of the most common occupations will be familiar to you.
Just over 5,000 people were living on the patch of land we now recognize as downtown Pittsburgh. The directory lists about 1,500 heads of household there.
Of those, 44 were shoemakers or bootmakers. If you ever had leather-soled shoes, you know they don’t last. Shoemakers didn’t have long-lasting, man-made materials to work with. So, there was plenty of shoe work to go around. Since the past tense of shoe is shod, you can honestly tell them your work is shoddy and they will hire you.
Cast Into the Job of Widow
Widows are quite common in the directory.
Many operated boarding houses, a common way for women to make ends meet after losing their husbands. With the toll childbirth took on women, there may well have been more widowers than widows, but they are not recognized in the directory.
Men are listed by occupation not marital status.
Catharine Wilkins, of the family for which Wilkinsburg and Wilkins Township get their names, got special treatment. She is listed as a widow and a “gentlewoman.”
The next woman in line did not get the same respect. Jane Wilky is listed as a widow and washwoman.
The most common professions among women were seamstress and milliner. No wonder. Remember, ready-to-wear, factory-made clothing was still a long way off for women.
It had only just started for men. Factory-made uniforms for the War of 1812 proved quite popular among men. Men’s simpler fashion lines lent themselves to mechanized production. Women had to wait another century.
Interestingly, two men are listed as hairdressers in Pittsburgh. No women are.
If you need to get your hair done for your job interview, you can go to Edward Frethy on Front Street, between Wood and Market streets, or Edward Pratt on Wood Street, between Diamond Alley and Fifth Street.
By the way, if you are a man, don’t go to a clothier for clothing. Clothiers make cloth.
You want to go to one of the many tailors in town. Only, they spelled it “taylor” in Pittsburgh back then.
There were many men plastering new walls in the growing city. Again, spelling and pronunciation could be an issue for you, though. They called themselves plaisterers.
You will be hard-pressed to match the misfortune of one of the widows in the directory.
The poor woman was destined to be a widow. She married a Corpse.
Seriously. Her name was Mary Corpse. You can find her on Penn Avenue between Hand and Irwin streets. She’s listed as a “tayloress,” meaning she tailors suits for men. Maybe they weren’t living men.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can look over the directory yourself here.
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