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755px-Jean_Baptiste_Jules_Trayer_Bretonische_Schneiderinnen_1854Many people are still looking for occupations. Blame the recession, stress and unhappiness or just the natural shifting in the workforce, but a multitude still remain unemployed. Persons in every demographic are scouring listings, utilizing social networking or tapping into their creative side and drawing attention with unconventional schemes. However, most of the populations still reaches for the classified sections of publications to find work.

The 19th century was no different. Their quest for an occupation, or situation, as it was referred to at the time required similar methods. They used the traditional form of social networking via word of mouth. They informed family and friends whom were already employed to inquire with their employers if they were seeking new hires. The ally, in turn, would put a good word for the unemployed person to at least put the employer on the notice of a reliable worker.

The hopefuls also attended hiring fairs, which was opposite of how we know them to be. Instead of applicants approaching a corporation’s booth, the 19th century version had the unemployed milling around wearing or carrying a prop in the field they are seeking employment. For example, a farmer might trim his hat with a few sprigs of wheat or carry a pitchfork. All the hopefuls were to carry letters of reference on their person at all times during the fair. Employers would approach a person with a corresponding  symbol for the position he or she wished to fill. The employer would then ask to see the “farmer’s” papers. He would procure them to the employer, who would read them and hand it back to “the farmer.” There was an interview on the spot and if a deal was made, it was sealed with a fastening penny as a symbol for promise of payment and a hearty handshake.

Creative self-promoting was not common during the 1800s and was generally frown upon by potential employers. They wanted diligent workers who would not create such a fuss. They did not want a big personality and a dreamer, expecting to use the position they were offering as a stepping stone to better things. In fact, changing an occupational field was so very rare, but it did happen on occasion. Better things, only referred to climbing the ladder within a field. However, many shrewd employers did not promote employees as to not have to pay higher wages. Some researchers suspect this stymied situation often found in the lower quarters but also occurred in the higher classes, lead to violence; as trying to kill off the person with the higher salary so a lower employee can move up to fill the required position.

Agencies were also used in some instances. In the early part of the century, agencies required the unemployed to pay a fee for the agency to do all the searching. In theory the agency was to contact the person when a position became available. It was risky to sign up with a new agency as many times they turned out to be scams and those agencies with a long-standing impressive reputations were ironically beyond the means of some hopefuls.

The classifieds or bulletins were a staple of broadsides and newspapers from their inception. Both people looking for situations and employers looking for hires advertised. It was not unusual for employers to mandate an age range, race, religion, and our physical appearance in their advertisements. The Victorians also required their applicants to have upstanding moral character. In fact, in Service, one of the butler or housekeeper’s duties was to oversee their charges’ moral character.

WANTED a middleaged WOMAN to Mange a Dairy of six Cos, and undertake the washing for a Family, with the assistance of a Girl–Respectable reference required.–Apply at the MERCURY OFFICE.

LAW. Wanted by a YOUTH a SITUATION as JUNIOR CLERK, can Copy, &c., neatly–Address, L.B. MERCURY OFFICE.

WANTED, a SITUATION as GROOM and COACHMAN, by a respectable married man of good character.–Apply to Mrs. R. PICK, 2, St. Mary’s-gate.

WANTED immediately, a competent middle-aged COOK-HOUSEKEEPER–Apply to Mrs. R. PICK, 2, St. Mary’s-gate.

GROOM AND COACHMAN. WANTED, for the Country, as in-door Servant, a SINGLE MAN, of light weight, between 25 and 30 years of age, as COACHMAN to drive a pair of Horses, and to ride also as Postillion. He must be a thorough good Groom, understand stable work, and drive and ride well. He will be required occasionally to wait at the table, and to make himself generally useful. A personal character will be indispensable. Address, stating qualifications and wages required to Mrs. KEEMAN, 13, Victoria-street, Derby.

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