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Author: Excerpted from an activity by teacher Mary Anne Deer, Putney Central School, Putney, VT
Grade Level: 6-8
Essential Question: How did industrialization affect the lives of Vermonters in the late 1800s?
Background Information: http://www.flowofhistory.org/themes/technology_transportation/overview.php
As a group, examine page 1 of the 1870 United States Federal Census for Putney, looking at the column headings, and paying special attention to columns 1 (house number), 3 (names), 4 (ages), and 7 (occupations). Note the kinds of occupations listed on this page, and who shared the same household.
Divide the class into 3 teams. Explain that they are going to do some sleuthing to see what other kinds of jobs people had during the latter half of the 1800s in Putney.
Distribute copies of the 1870 United States Federal Census for the town of Putney, page 8 to the first team, 17 to the second, and 19 to the third team.
Give them time to look over the page with their team, locating occupations, groups that lived together, and any unusual information. Specifically, ask them to look for the following information:
After ten minutes or when discussion seems to be finished, ask the teams to share their answers to the questions.
Page 1 of the census has little of unusual interest. It shows mostly farmers and wives who keep house. Compared to page 19, it is clear that the census taker started out in the country.
Page 8 becomes interesting when you reach line 10. After the head of the house, his wife, and his three children are listed, there is a list of people of various ages and last names all in the same household. One person, Clark Derby on line 18, is seven years old, attending school, and marked as “idiotic.” This list might very likely be the town farm list, although there is no road to prove that.
Page 17 contains another lengthy list of people living in the same household, none of which have the same last name. Their occupations vary, but all tie closely to the woolen industry. It would therefore appear that this is likely a mill house provided for the single workers at the woolen mill.
Page 19, line 10, refers to a worker in the paper mill, which might be of interest to the students, since there is still an active paper mill in Putney. Lines 16 and 17 place two dressmakers in the home of William Houghton (an opportunity to discuss itinerant workers who were housed and fed while they worked for a family). This page seems to reflect life “downtown,” as there is a butcher (line 2), the paper mill workers (lines 10 & 18), a harness maker (line 11), a carpenter (line 17), a merchant (line 21), and a carder in the woolen mill (line 30).