I came across the following statement about mining conditions in 1913. It involved a company in which John D., Jr. owned a lot of stock. The facts are probably accurate but the implications and conclusions made me wonder.
“The miners’ low wages (about $1.68 a day) were paid in scrip redeemable only at company stores charging extortionate prices. The miners usually lived in small two-room shacks provide by the company at exorbitant rents, and from which they could be evicted on a three-day notice.” p. 108Obviously we have an issue with the company store. Tennessee Ernie Ford made the case for that in “Sixteen Tons”. But for the rest you need to put your brain in gear and think, this is 1913, not last year. Most people in the country lived in what we today would consider “two-room shacks” or the equivalent. At that time they would not think they were being persecuted. My wife thinks our 2,200 square foot house is too small to live in.
I wondered how the wages of these miners compared to people around them. I did some searching. In trying to find out what would be a realistic wage in 1913 you run into a lot of variation. One source said $3,000 but, after a little research, that was an ignorant writer using the standard deduction the first year of the income tax. I finally decided to use the numbers for 1910 from some kind of embassy sight. They seemed realistic and consistent with what I was finding for 1900.
The average for all industries was $574 a year.Based on statements that a six day week was normal at that time, a person making $1.68 a day would have an annual income of $524.16. (1.68x6x52). Although that is a bit less than the average for industry and well below a government worker (some things never change) it was well above what a school teacher could make.
The average for government workers was $699 a year
The average for school teachers was $492 a year.
Do school teachers risk their lives every day? Maybe now, but I doubt it then. Was it a lot of money? No, but keep in mind they had no utilities and since the income tax was just beginning, they paid no taxes.
If you want to use history to make a point at least don’t get sneaky and take advantage of a gullible and ignorant population.
Collier, Peter and Horowitz, David. The Rockefellers, an American Dynasty.
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, p. 108.
homo unius libri