A Day in the Life of an American Worker
200 Trades and Professions through History
by Nancy Quam-Wickham and Ben Tyler Elliott, Editors
December 2019, 790pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4500-0
$204, £152, 170€, A292
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4501-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Some studies suggest that more than a quarter of Americans participate in the “gig economy,” earning income through app-based service jobs like driving passengers or delivering food.

This introduction to the history of work in America illuminates the many important roles that men and women of all backgrounds have played in the formation of the United States.

A Day in the Life of an American Worker: 200 Trades and Professions through History allows readers to imagine the daily lives of ordinary workers, from the beginnings of colonial America to the present. It presents the stories of millions of Americans—from the enslaved field hands in antebellum America to the astronauts of the modern “space age”—as they contributed to the formation of the modern and culturally diverse United States.

Readers will learn about individual occupations and discover the untold histories of those women and men who too often have remained anonymous to historians but whose stories are just as important as those of leaders whose lives we study in our classrooms. This book provides specific details to enable comprehensive understanding of the benefits and downsides of each trade and profession discussed. Selected accompanying documents further bring history to life by offering vivid testimonies from people who actually worked in these occupations or interacted with those in that field.


  • Provides readers with a comprehensive survey of the history of work in America
  • Introduces readers to a variety of occupations that Americans have held, revealing how those jobs changed with the introduction of technology
  • Includes a variety of primary documents to enliven the past and provide a glimpse into how historians use documents to understand the past
Nancy Quam-Wickham, PhD, is professor of history at Long Beach State University and senior assessment specialist at Washington State University, Pullman, WA. She has authored many articles and book chapters about U.S. labor and environmental history and is currently working on a new book, Gastronautica: What the Whalers Ate.

Ben Tyler Elliott is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer and editor. He has worked closely with students and faculty at Stanford University and throughout the University of California and California State University systems. His writing has appeared in Calliope, The Talking Book, and You're Going to Die. He holds a master's degree in English literature from San Francisco State University, where his research explored the symbiotic relationships between allegory, angst, and the subversive narrative.


"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."—Library Journal, March 1, 2020
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