Gabriel Thomas on colonial life in Pennsylvania (1698)


In 1698 an American colonist, Gabriel Thomas, published an account of the easy and affluent colonial life in Pennsylvania:


“I must say, even the present encouragements are very great and inviting for poor people (both men and women) of all kinds, can here get three times the wages for their Labour they can in England or Wales.

I shall instance in a few… The first was a blacksmith (my next neighbour) who himself and one Negro man he had, got fifty shillings in one day, by working up a hundred pound weight of iron… And for carpenters, both house and ship, bricklayers, masons, either of these tradesmen will get between five and six shillings every day constantly. As to journeymen shoemakers, they have two shillings per pair both for men and women’s shoes; and journeymen tailors have 12 shillings per week…

Of lawyers and physicians I shall say nothing, because this country is very peaceable and healthy; long may it so continue and never have occasion for the tongue of the one nor the Pen of the other, both equally destructive to men’s estates and lives…

Labouring men have commonly here between £14 and £15 a year and their meat, drink, washing and lodging; and by the day their wages is generally between 18 Pence and a half-a-crown… But in harvest they have usually between three and four shillings each day, and diet. The maidservant’s wages is commonly betwixt six and ten pounds per annum, with very good accommodation. And for the women who get their livelihood by their own industry, their Labour is very dear…

Corn and flesh and what else serves man for drink, food and rayment [clothing] is much cheaper here than in England, or elsewhere; but the chief reason why wages of servants of all sorts is much higher here than there, arises from the great fertility and produce of the place; if these large stipends were refused them, they would quickly set up for themselves…

As First, their land costs them little or nothing in comparison [to] the farmers in England can from the richest Land they have. In the second place, they have constantly good price for their corn, by reason of the great and quick vent [trade] into Barbados and other Islands; through which means silver is become more plentiful than here in England… Thirdly they pay no tithes and their Taxes are inconsiderable…

Here [there] are no beggars to be seen (it is a shame and disgrace to the State that there are so many in England) nor indeed have any here the least occasion or temptation to take up that scandalous Lazy Life.

Jealousy among men is here very rare and barrenness among women hardly to be heard of, nor are old maids to be met with, for all commonly marry before they are 20 years of age, and seldom any young married women but hath a child in her belly, or one upon her lap.”

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