Timeline Tuesday: Plenty of Work

 Job hunters in Omaha during the booming 1880s had an easier time than those seeking work today. A reporter for the Omaha Daily Bee in the fall of 1888 “made the rounds of the city and saw scores of the advertisers for help in the want columns of the daily press, and the unanimous verdict of the daily press, and the unanimous verdict of all is . . . there is employment for all who honestly want it.”

Tradesmen and manual workers were in particularly short supply. “There is no surplus, even of common day laborers in the city,” noted the Bee on October 14, 1888, “simply from the fact that there is such an enormous quantity of improvement in progress that all can find work. The blackboards of all the employment agencies in the city are unceasingly covered with their calls for teamsters. The former are paid anywhere from $1.75 to $2.50 and even as high as $3 per day for particular work, while a teamster can procure steady employment at $25 a month and found [room and board].

“A good mechanic can always find plenty to keep his hands full, and there is no good reason why the majority of them should not be well off in this world’s goods, and many of them are. There are innumerable contracts being let even as late as this, and hundreds of foundations being put in. There is plenty of work for bricklayers right now and will be for three months to come. And then a good bricklayer commands 55 cents an hour, and they ought surely be able to eke out a pretty fair sustenance upon such wages. Carpenters too, are in precisely the same boat, there is plenty of work for them at 30 cents an hour.

“Brick masons’ tenders are well paid, receiving from $2 to $2.50 a day, with plenty of employment. A first class tailor need not remain idle one moment here in the city of Omaha. There is any quantity of work for them at from $25 to $30 a week, while ‘bushelmen’ [tailors’ assistants] can earn from $15 to $18. Good tinners, too, are in demand, at $2.75 and $3 a day. . . . Good cobblers make from $10 to $14 a week.”

The Bee noted that female job hunters seemed to be more numerous than their male counterparts: “There seems to be more young women anxious for positions, clerkships, bookkeepers, assistants, typewriters, stenographers, and so on and so forth, than there does men, in fact at a ratio of ten to one. . . Today there is in the city of Omaha thousands of young women and girls, willing, eager to take an active part in the toil of the great hive of life, some from necessity, others from a desire for occupation, and a laudable ambition to do for themselves.”

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Sewing the Flag

Sewing the Flag

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.