Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century

Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century

WALTER LICHT
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztxk6
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  • Book Info
    Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century
    Book Description:

    Walter Licht chronicles the working and personal lives of the first two generations of American railwaymen, the first workers in America to enter large-scale, bureaucratically managed, corporately owned work organizations.

    Originally published in 1983.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5584-1
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF TABLES
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Walter Licht
  6. 1 THE VIEW FROM THE TOP
    (pp. 3-30)

    No written history of nineteenth-century America is complete without a due account of railroads. Cliometricians may attempt to persuade with counterfactual arguments and extended calculations that the railroads’ contribution to economic growth was less than indispensable; that, in effect, if the railroads had not been built, the graph of American economic progress would have assumed a shape similar to its realized pattern.¹ While the iconoclastic contentions and methods of the “new” economic historians certainly dazzle the mind, no amount of inverted logic, fanciful model building, or simultaneous equations can obliterate the reality that the railroadswerebuilt and that they...

  7. 2 THE SUPPLY OF LABOR
    (pp. 31-78)

    Enterprises thrive on adequate supplies of capital, land, and labor. The labor component in the productive process has an absolute and qualitative dimension. The sheer existence of sufficient numbers of workers is one requisite; of equal importance is the skill and ability of the available labor pool. Industrializing nations in general, and industrial firms in particular, face the double-edged problem of recruiting both ample and competent work forces.

    The process of recruitment is also an important part of the work experience. Who is recruited into different occupations and the formal and informal arrangements by which men initially are employed have...

  8. 3 WORKING TO RULE
    (pp. 79-124)

    The iron horse was an apt symbol of the new age of mechanical energy, speed, and expanded commerce. The railroads provided other, more subtle testimonials to the changes wrought by industrial capitalism. The printed train schedule and the conductor’s gold timepiece were also emblems. The pace of life had quickened and become more ordered. Thoreau noted the difference. The railroads, he wrote:

    They come and go with such regularity and precision, and their whistles can be heard so far, that the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well-regulated institution regulates a whole country. Have not men improved...

  9. 4 THE REWARDS OF LABOR
    (pp. 125-163)

    From the proverbial stick to the proverbial carrot: positive incentives as well as negative sanctions shaped railroad work in the nineteenth century. Diligence and loyalty had their rewards. Relatively high wages, bonus systems, a variety of fringe benefits, and definite opportunities for promotion to higher status and higher-paying positions—all this encouraged industriousness. But discipline was also self-engendered. Railroading offered a life of adventure, personal fulfillment, and camaraderie and the intrinsic rewards of such labor cannot be minimized.

    Mid-nineteenth-century railroad officials frequently exchanged ideas and information regarding wages, and the subject of employee compensation was discussed widely in the trade...

  10. 5 THE PERILS OF LABOR
    (pp. 164-213)

    Experience generally squared with expectations. Railroading beckoned and provided. Men answered the call of the road and found that the work offered genuine material and personal rewards. Yet, there is another side to the story, one much less sanguine. Mid-nineteenth-century American railway-men labored under constant adversity. Certain negative aspects of the work—payless paydays, capricious supervision—have already been mentioned. Here attention will focus on even harsher realities. Railroad employment was erratic and without guarantees, the hours of service long, and most crucially, railway workers toiled under the ever-present and pressing threat of accidents and the high probability of injury...

  11. 6 THE RAILWAYMEN: A SOCIAL PROFILE
    (pp. 214-243)

    From recruitment through promotion, old age, retirement, and death, the stages in the occupational life cycle of the first two generations of American railwaymen have been outlined. A focus on the work experience provides an extensive but incomplete portrait of the lives of these workers. Their social backgrounds and characteristics, their personal histories and private affairs have been touched upon and traced in passing. Here a direct attempt will be made to sketch in the details.

    Nineteenth-century railroad work was a world inhabited by men. Males comprised almost the entire work force of the nation’s pioneer railroads, even in clerical...

  12. 7 THE LEGACY OF THE EARLY YEARS: CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 244-272)

    In the majority of cases a man’s employment depends not alone upon his good behavior, ability and trustworthiness, but upon the whim of his superior; he is hired for no specific time, holds no contract with his company that secures him employment, and is liable to be discharged at any moment without warning.—Loco-motive Engineer's Journal¹

    For the third and fourth generations of American railwaymen, conflict and turmoil marked their working days. In the last quarter of the nineteenth and first quarter of the twentieth centuries, American railroad workers and their supporters within the communities in which they resided fought...

  13. APPENDIXES
    (pp. 273-305)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 306-320)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 321-328)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-329)