Muleteer, Occultist, Whitesmith

The Bureau of Labor's Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system maintains a set of job and occupational codes to ensure consistent statistical and information gathering.

Blacksmith working hot iron

As part of my research for a paper in my Organization of Information class, I looked up the SOC's tortured history, starting from 1940 till the Office of Management and Budget mandated in 2000 that all governmental departments standardize on it.

In a rather dry 1999 document on the code's revision (PDF) I found a simply wonderful two-page list of all occupations listed in the 1850 Census.The list starts on page 11.

The three trades in this post's title come from there, as do these charmers:

  • Philosophical instrument maker
  • Salaeratus maker
  • Shoe-peg makers
  • Calico printers
  • Button makers
  • Chandlers
  • Sawyers
  • Morocco dressers
  • Daguerreotypists

Salaeratus maker? It's explained in a 1999 Voice of America broadcast on the above document and a few online dictionaries.

It's a remarkable picture of a vanished land and time, when life was local, rural, and everything of any value had to be made by someone, not imported from offshore. Notice how many occupations end with "makers" and "manufacturers." Notice how few of those jobs make their way to the current SOC headings. We've gained, certainly -- less tedious, back-breaking work for a majority, more prosperity, more goods available at a cheaper price -- but I can't help feeling something's been lost, too.

P.S. This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, on my previous blog, Oddments of High Unimportance. Don't go telling on me for plagiarizing myself, now.

Enhanced by Zemanta