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Eastern Shore Road Trips: 27 One-Day Adventures on Delmarva

Everyone knows workplace conditions were a animal in times gone by, but it’s still eye-opening to consider just how different things were. Consider this old poster, which I saw on a recent visit to the Furnacetown Living Heritage Village near Snow Hill, Md.

The Village is on the site of an old bog-iron-making operation, but these Furnacetown rules actually apply to the clerical staff, not manual laborers. The year in question is 1852. The memo starts out with good news: The workday has been reduced to a mere 11 hours! But it goes downhill after that …


• The firm has reduced the hours of work, the staff will now only have to be present between 7 am and 6 pm.

• Clothes must be of a sober nature.

• Each member of the clerical staff must bring 4 pounds of coal each day, during cold or damp weather.

• No member of the clerical staff may leave the room, without permission from Mrs. Fischer. Calls of nature are permitted.

Office Rules at Furnacetown, 1852• No talking is allowed during business hours. The craving of tobacco, wines, and spirits is a human weakness and as such is forbidden.

• The partaking of food is allowed between 11:30 and Noon but work will not on any account cease.

• The new increased weekly wages are:

Junior Boys (5 to 11 years)                         .15

Boys (to 14 years)                                        .15

Junior Clerks                                             1.06

Senior Clerks                                             2.50

                           (after 15 years with owners)

• All apprentices are to be indentured from 7 to 12 years. Any breach of Contract is faulted, by law, to jail term, and fine to the parents.

The Printing Office

I am posting these Furnacetown rules during Labor Day weekend, 2018, in hopes that it will serve as a cause for gratitude, even among those of you feeling like they have the worst office job in the modern-day world. Hey, at least you don’t have to cart four pounds of coal into the office every day!

–posted by Jim Duffy on Aug. 31, 2018.

NOTE: If you are interested in visiting Furnacetown Living Heritage Village, here is the website where you will find everything you need.

NOTE #2: The illustration up top here is not a depiction of Furnacetown. Rather, it’s an illustration of a typical office environment from the period–in this case, a Wells Fargo office in the 1860s. My guess is that this image, with its squeaky clean windows and tidy floor, looks much more pleasant than the old reality …


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