What Are Some Jobs in Colonial, New Jersey?

by Margaret Montet

New Jersey's economy and culture were similar to the other mid-Atlantic and New England colonies. People found jobs in colonial towns as tradesmen and merchants, and on the sea as fishermen and sailors, but the majority of people made their living on farms.

Farming

Apples were an important crop in colonial New Jersey

New Jersey's soil is fertile and the summers are long. These two factors come together to create a long, productive growing season for farmers. The primary crops were corn and apples, which were dried or made into cider. Wheat, barley, oats and rye were also grown successfully in New Jersey. Farmers also raised livestock, especially cattle and hogs.

Merchants

Corn was an important export for colonial New Jersey.

Merchants sold essential supplies to colonial townspeople and farmers. Some worked at importing (molasses, spices, hardware, fine china and furniture) and exporting (fish, cattle and other livestock, corn, dried apples, wheat, flour and timber) to places like the West Indies, England and Spain.

Tavern Keepers

A colonial tavern also served as a lodging house.

Taverns in colonial towns also functioned as lodging houses, the center of any government activity (elections and meetings, for example), and the hub of entertainment. The tavern keeper was a very important member of the community.

Jobs in Town

Most towns required a town clerk, a minister, an apothecary, and a schoolteacher as well as various tradesmen: coopers (who made barrels), blacksmiths, weavers, wheelwrights, carpenters, seamstresses, printers and shoemakers. Many people in New Jersey's smaller towns would have more than one job, but in larger cities such as Trenton and Princeton where there was more business, they could focus on one occupation.

Jobs on Water

With its long coastline, many colonial New Jerseyans found employment at sea.

Because of its ocean, bay and river coasts, many colonial New Jerseyans made their livings on the water as sailors, fishermen and shipbuilders. Others specialized in selling the shad, sturgeon, herring, oysters and clams that were caught. Traditionally in New Jersey, river and bay fishing has been more lucrative than ocean and deep-sea fishing.

References

About the Author

Margaret Montet has been a freelance writer for five years and a librarian for 20. She has master's degrees in library science and music theory. She writes extensively about America’s oldest seashore resort, Cape May, N.J. Montet has published articles in "Edible Jersey," "The Traveler," "Twin Capes Traveller," "Chesapeake Family" and "Go!" on topics including medieval art, murder mystery dinner parties, cranberries and quilting.

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