Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's

By Tyler Anbinder | Go to book overview
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The purpose of this appendix is to explain, in more detail than is feasible in the footnotes, the methods used for compiling and categorizing the occupational and property data presented in Chapters 2 and 6. The most difficult task concerned the classification of the occupations. Luckily, my task in this regard was much simpler than that confronted by those examining occupational mobility, who are forced to make judgments on the relative status of various occupations. Because I was comparing the jobs held by two different groups of workers, rather than deciding whether a single worker's change of jobs marked a step up or down in the employment ladder, no such problem presented itself, and as long as I grouped both those Know Nothings and nonKnow Nothings who pursued the same occupation in the same occupational category, my purpose -- to present a means for comparing the jobs held by both groups -- would be served.

Because I often found conflicting information concerning a Know Nothing's occupation, I had to determine which sources were most credible. In the end, I created the following hierarchy, from most to least reliable: Know Nothing minute-books, 1855 state census, city directory, 1850 federal census, 1860 federal census. I trusted the 1855 census more than city directories because one can not be sure that the directories were updated each year, while the information from the census was likely to come from a family member who would know what occupation the Know Nothing pursued. The 1850 census was given precedence over the 1860 census because that information was gathered closer (four years versus six) to the time that most Know Nothing lodges were formed.

A much more difficult problem concerned the classification of job titles whose meaning was unclear. In most cases, my rule was to be consistent with both Know Nothings and non-Know Nothings, so that even if a mistake was made, it would be reflected equally in both the Know Nothing and non-Know Nothing categories. The occupations which most frequently presented such a problem were those of "shoe manufacturer," "railroad conductor," "overseer," and, to a much lesser extent, "machinist." Most shoemakers simply called themselves "bootmakers" or sometimes "shoemakers." However, some called themselves "boot manufacturer," and I soon discovered that this term was utilized by both simple bootmakers and those who owned huge shoemaking factories. In these cases, I conducted additional research, and in every instance I was able to determine with relative certainty (through wealth statis


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