Popular Jobs in the 1900s

Life in the 1900s was optimistic and filled with prosperity. This is not to say that everyone was wealthy or was materialistic but the 1800s brought a burst of technological advances and was moving toward still more change. This was a time for the great migration from rural areas to the city in search of jobs.

There were 24 million working people age 10 and over in 1900, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Available Work

Farming and forestry were still the primary source of employment in the early 1900s. Mining, manufacturing and construction were also available employment options. There were specialised professions as well in the early1900s such as psychotherapists (who at that time fell under the title physician), physicians, lawyers, judges, marshals, sheriffs, deputies, and clergy. Other professions such as those in retail and service industries also existed.

Service and Retail

In the service industry, which includes the retail sector, there were traders, merchants, importers/ exporters, salesman, operators, secretaries, hoteliers, barbers, midwives, maids, butlers, waiters, chefs, book-keepers, dairies, butchers, and other pertinent services that were bringing needed items and services.

For a list of the most popular job titles Johnstown Area Heritage Association (See Resources) has a list of the most common jobs in the 1900s. The U.S. Labor Department did not start getting involved and documenting labour issues, statistics and details until the 1930s.

The Railways

Beginning in the mid 1800s railway companes started to build lines connecting major hubs and cities. This was a popular job with new immigrants and those that had settled there already. There was a wide array of jobs available with the railway. Train engineer, porter, yard master, weigh-master, boiler fireman, break-man, track layers and other positions subcategory to track layer

World War II & Rosie the Riveter

During World War II the decline in available men in the workforce drove women into factories for work such as riveters for munitions. After the war, there was no need for riveters but women did not return home, they remained in the workforce. Factories, seamstress shops and telephone companies saw an increase in women applying for positions. These positions were not limited to women, nor was it a conclusive list, rather a general view of the commonly available and popular jobs.