Common Labor: Workers and the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860

Canal construction played a significant role in the rise of industrial America opening up new markets, employing an army of workers, and initiating the ties between capital and government that remain important to this day. The work went forward using simple tools and the brute strength of men and animals, with diggers working twelve-hour days and suffering the ravages of disease and injury. In this highly acclaimed study, Peter Way challenges conventional views of the part these workers played in the early republic and of the culture they created.

Increasingly made up of Irish immigrants, Way explains, the work force was housed in shanty towns hastily thrown up along the path of canal construction. Unlike the vibrant, proud working-class communities so beloved in labor history, these towns were the scene of considerable off-hours vice and violence. As wages fell throughout the 1830s, workers’ discontent mounted to the point where riots were frequent and militia units often descended on the towns to enforce order. Common Labour traces a dark picture of powerlessness, depravity, and rage in the lives of America’s canal diggers.

READ ONLINE

This book is not currently available to read online.

PURCHASE
Lookups

Lookups are not currently available for this book.

Timeline Help

A chronological listing of historical events which may have affected the lives of residents in eastern Jefferson County and surrounding areas.
1Where is this information from?
The vast majority of these accounts are taken from newspaper articles of local papers of the time period.
2How can I apply this information to my own research?

We use this timeline to help us understand the events that may have affected or shaped a person's life. Here are some ideas as to how this timeline may help your further your own research:

  • View events that may have affected a particular ancestor or their family members.
  • Uncover events which an ancestor may have participated in, leading to more sources of information.
  • Discover more about the history and culture of the area in which an ancestor lived.
  • Evaluate possible concerns and popular pastimes of an ancestor.
3I want to view a timeline of events in a specific area.
Click on "Location" in the "Filter by" bar. This will drop down a list of locations which currently have happenings in the timeline. Clicking on a location will show only events related to that specific area. Note that clicking on a county or state will show all happenings related to any location within that county (and any county within a state).
4I want to see timeline items between two years.
Click on "Years" in the "Filter by" bar. This will drop down a form which accepts a starting year and an ending year. Filling out both fields will display timeline items which took place in and between the two years. Filling out only one field will display all timeline items beginning at or ending on the years inputted.