M930.50.7.469 | Blacksmith's Shop

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Blacksmith's Shop
J. Goulden
1850-1899, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
8.4 x 7.8 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Genre (188) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

In the space of just a few decades, recreational opportunities in Canadian cities grew to include a variety of attractions and a wide range of new pursuits and sports, but to enjoy them, people had to have time. During much of the 19th century, wageworkers fought for shorter workdays, but improvements were slow to come. In the 1860s and 1870s, workweeks easily ran to 60 or 70 hours, at a rate of 10 to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Some, such as stevedores and typesetters, were privileged and worked only 9 hours a day, while workers in places like sawmills and bakeries put in 12 to 15 hours. This left little time for leisure pursuits.

Bruce Kidd, The Struggle for Canadian Sports (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1996), pp. 17-19.

  • What

    The workers' demands for better conditions included a reduction in working hours that would allow them time to take advantage of the growing array of leisure activities.

  • Where

    The work world saw radical change in the 19th century. The rise of large industries led to the disappearance of handcrafting and the standardization of working conditions for wageworkers.

  • When

    Workers were prohibited from forming unions until 1872, which made it hard to enforce their demands.

  • Who

    In an effort to introduce a new working discipline suited to the requirements of industrial production, factory managers and owners closely monitored employee hours and freely imposed fines for missteps.