A Day in the Life of an American Worker: 200 Trades and Professions Through History

ABC-CLIO. 2019. 790p. ed. by ed. by Nancy Quam-Wickham & Ben Tyler Elliott. ISBN 9781440845000. $204. REF
In this exploration of working people throughout U.S. history, Quam-Wickham (history, California State Univ. Long Beach) and writer and editor Elliott take a generalist rather than a comprehensive approach to their subject. Aware that the term working people is a broad one, and that occupations have evolved over time, the editors selected jobs they consider to be reflective of the American work environment over the last 400 years. The book is organized around six pivotal epochs: the end of the colonial era, the start of the Civil War, the end of Reconstruction, the start of World War I, the start of World War II, and the rise of the internet. Each section begins with an introduction of the era, followed by approximately 30 individual entries that outline the typical daily responsibilities of jobs, from a farrier (early colonial period) and a ginner (Revolutionary War) to a puddler (Reconstruction), a glazier (World War I), and a computer programmer (post–World War II). Information on how jobs have changed over time, plus a chronology of important events, primary documents of workers’ experiences, and a detailed bibliography help support the entries.
VERDICT This concise, well-written work is both an effective introduction to the subject but also a gateway for readers looking to take a deeper dive into an array of different types of occupations.

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