1867: Fannie Paine, 13, runs a payroll for 400 workers

In 1867, several American newspapers ran the story of Miss Fannie Paine, an employee of the Eagle Works Manufacturing Company in Chicago. Fannie was employed by the company as a bookkeeper the previous May, aged 12 years. She was promoted to paymaster shortly after her 13th birthday.

According to one report, in the second half of 1866:

“…she will have paid out about a quarter of a million dollars, keeping the time sheets, payroll and a private account for each of the 400 men employed. She receives the money weekly from the bank, to the amount of $4,000 to $5,000, carries the transaction of paying all the men through, settles and makes her balances with the cashier. She knows every man in the establishment [and its] eleven departments…”

Fannie reportedly made $12 a week, more than the wage of skilled male industrial workers. She also “attends an evening course at a commercial college” and “takes two music lessons each week”.

According to other sources, Eagle Works was well known for its progressive employment policies, hiring women and African-Americans at pay rates equal to those of skilled white males – a rarity in Gilded Age America. The company was forced into closure during an economic depression in the mid-1870s.

Source: Highland Weekly News, Ohio, January 10th 1867. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.