The Workers - Introduction

The Workers

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Introduction

The labor of many individuals allowed estates like Montgomery Place to exist. For example, dozens of people helped Janet Montgomery turn the acreage she had purchased in 1802 into a model mansion, farm, and orchard.

The work force was a combination of black and white people, free and enslaved. Some had been born in America; others were emigrants from Northern Europe. Their employment terms varied, with some receiving yearly salaries and housing, others working on ten-month contracts, and still others hired only to help bring in the harvest. Scores of workers’ names appeared in Janet’s papers; undoubtedly even more individuals were involved. 

We can gain an understanding of the elite owners’ lives and attitudes through their words and deeds as documented in personal and business papers, but the circumstances and views of the workers, though less visible in the historical record, are no less important. Using a variety of historic documents, along with 20th-century oral histories conducted with estate workers and their families, the circumstances of workers on this property over the course of 150 years will be discussed in this program.

Orchard workers at Montgomery Place. Gelatin silver print, c. 1950. Courtesy of the descendents of Amelia and Julius Bloch.

Audio: Louise Livingston

Louise Livingston to Edward Livingston, October 25, 1829. Princeton University.

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