CONTRIBUTIONS BY JOHN G. SHARP

EARLY GOSPORT DOCUMENTS

Gosport Navy Yard Employees, Occupation & Per Diem Pay Rates

1. List of persons employed by the Year, including Master Workmen, Shewing the amount of the Salary,
Emoluments & pay per month, dated 12 May 1819
2. List of persons employed by the Year, including Master Workmen, Shewing the amount of the Salary,
Emoluments & pay per month, May 12, 1819.
3. Payroll of Mechanics, Laborers, &c, Employed in the United States Navy Yard Gosport During the Month of July 1948

Introduction

Below are two transcribed Gosport Navy Yard documents (GNY); titled "List of persons employed by the Year, including Master Workmen, Shewing the amount of the Salary, Emoluments & pay per month" dated 12 May 1819 and the "Roll of Mechanics & Labourers employed in the Navy Yard at Gosport Virg -" circa 1819 – 1820. Together these two rolls compromise twelve pages of employee's names, occupations and per diem pay rates and annual salaries. The first document the payroll for May 1819 enumerates the names, job titles, salaries, and benefits of Gosport's Naval Constructor, Naval Store Keeper, Master Workmen and senior clerks. The second is a list of employee names, occupations, and per diem pay rates. Both documents reflect the early Yard social hierarchy, enumerate the names of its employees, and show the wide variety of GNY nautical crafts and occupations, some of those listed are now rare or obsolete e.g. "Mastmaker "and "Cooper" and of course the names of the wonderful ships they built.

The "List of persons employed by the Year, including Master Workmen, Shewing the amount of the Salary, Emoluments & pay per month" provides information regarding the Yards management cadre. Throughout much of its long existence the Gosport Navy Yard,, later known as Norfolk Navy Yard, had only few permanently stationed naval officers such Commandants John Cassin and Lewis Warrington. For much of the day to day management and supervision of its large civilian workforce the Commandant relied heavily on Master Workmen also referred to as Master Mechanics and Foremen. Each trade had a Master Workmen, individuals recognized as experts in their specialty usually with many years of trade experience. Master Workmen were often salaried employees and entitled to allowances for house rent. In 1819; eight of the Master Workmen was paid at least $ 600.00 per annum and often supervised large numbers of employees. Within each Navy Yard shop it was the Master Workmen who gave overall work direction through subordinate Quarterman and Leadingmen to the journeyman mechanics, laborers and apprentices. Master Workmen had the power not only to direct work operations, but more importantly to hire and dismiss mechanics and laborers and to appoint and supervised large numbers of trade apprentices.

The "Roll of Mechanics & Labourers employed in the Navy Yard at Gosport Virg -" appear to be part of the work book of the "Clerk of the Checques", James Smith. The purpose of such Rolls was to serve as a master list of names, occupations and rates for per diem employees. James Smith's principal work responsibility as Clerk of the Checque was to insure musters for pay purposes were carried out in accord with naval regulations and that the daily muster logs were an accurate reflection of day to day labor. We owe the preservation and survival of this roll and the remaining early 19th century muster logs and pay rolls to chance and circumstance for it was not until well into the 20th century that these precious historical records were removed from the various Navy Yards to the keeping and protection of the National Archives and Records Administration. The surviving pages of this document have no date affixed to them but from internal evidence NARA archivists believe this roll was compiled sometime between 1819 -1820. This extended roll appears to list the names of all of Gosport's per deim mechanics and laborers.

Mechanics & Laborers





The early Navy Yard was highly structured organization with the Commandant at the top surrounded by a small group of trusted officers and the Master Workmen at the apex of the trade hierarchy. Just below them were the Quartermen, subordinate leaders of several work crews, they were assisted by "lead men" or crew leaders. The whole Yard structure depended on skilled trade mechanics or journeymen. The term mechanic in the early 19th century referred to a skilled tradesman who had successfully completed a five or six year trade apprenticeship in a particular field. Each trade had trainees or apprentices, young workers in training. Each trade apprentice signed a binding legal indenture or contract typically with a Master Workmen to return designated service in exchange for being taught a trade. Laborers at GSY were the unskilled men who performed heavy but necessary work, such as digging, pile driving, and pulling or hauling of ships and ship parts. Enslaved labor too made up a significant but generally unacknowledged part of the Navy Yard's antebellum workforce. The Navy Department occasionally took drastic steps to limit the number blacks, for example on 17 March 1817, they issued a circular to all naval shipyards, banning employment of all blacks and apparently questioning the activities of some whites:

Abuses having existed in some of the Navy yards by the introduction of improper Characters for improper purposes, The board of navy Commissioners have deemed it necessary to direct that no Slaves or Negroes, except under extraordinary Circumstances, shall be employed in any navy yard in the United States, & in no case without the authority from the Board of Navy Commissioners [Signed Commodore John Roger, President of the Board].

But such bans were quickly eclipsed by waivers for African American labor was vital in many Yard occupations. By October 1831 Commodore Lewis Warrington reporting to the Board of Navy Commissioners acknowledged "There are about two hundred and forty six blacks employees in the Yard and Dock altogether." At Gosport and other federal shipyards, most African-Americans free and enslaved were confined to unpleasant less skilled work such as stone cutting for the new dry docks, working as strikers in blacksmith shop, or ship caulking.

These rolls do not specifically identify free or enslaved African Americans. One former enslaved GNY caulker, George Teamoth, who also worked on the Dry Dock remembered his years of servitude as; " ong years of unrequited toil…" Teamoth wrote that he worked for some time with Master Caulker Peter Tebo, and finally was able to purchase his manumission and continued to work at the Yard for many years.

The years 1819 -1820 were a time of ship building and repair activity for the GNY employees many of whom were assigned to repairs to the USS Congress, Constellation and the Peacock. For the Yard's per diem workforce a steady number of naval ships to build or overhaul was key to employment. Typically the supply of work followed the seasons with the Yard taking on more mechanics and laborers in the spring and summer months and the workers being laid off in the fall and winter as the cold weather, rain and snow made work in the open air impractical. For all GSY per diem employees the normal work week was a twelve hour day, six days a week. Sometimes national economic issues directly affected naval appropriations and employment levels and so it was that a credit crisis which emerged in the business and banking sector rapidly spread to the economy leading to the end of a speculative bubble and the "Panic of 1819" and the first recession in United States history. As a result there was a sharp decline in congressional appropriations for shipbuilding and repair, and the next few years were marked by spread layoffs at federal and commercial shipyard. Despite occasional efforts of the workers to organize for better conditions, wages for per diem employees during much of the early nineteenth century remained remarkably low, their hours long and their work situation tenuous at best, yet GSY employees took pride in their work, their craft traditions and their Yard.

Today no single volume records the history of the Yard's civilian workforce but these surviving muster and pay rolls allow modern historians to closely study the economic and social relationships of a fascinating and bygone era and as one historian has noted, they still provide a window "to be able to see the participants of the past in a comprehensive way in the context of their own time".


Payroll of the Mechanics and Laborers Employed in the United States Navy Yard at Gosport
from the first day of February to the last day of the same month, inclusively, 1819.

 

List of persons employed by the Year, including Master Workmen, Shewing the amount of the Salary, Emoluments & pay per month,
May 12, 1819.



Roll of Mechanics & Labourers employed in the Navy Yard at Gosport, Virginia, May 12, 1819.

 

Payroll of Mechanics, Laborers, &c, Employed in the United States Navy Yard Gosport During the Month of July 1848, pp. 1-3

Payroll of Mechanics, Laborers, &c, Employed in the United States Navy Yard Gosport During the Month of July 1848, pp. 33-45.



END NOTES

1. Leland, Waldo G. Archives of the Federal Government in Records of the Columbia Historical Society Washington DC 1908 Volumes 62-65 p. 92-93.

2. BNC Circular to Commandants of Naval Shipyards, 17 March 1817, RG 45, NARA.

3. Lewis Warrington to the Board of Navy Commissioners 12 October 1831NARA RG 45, Section 314.

4. Teamoh, George, God Made Man, Man Made the Slave the Autobiography of George Teamoh [edited by] F. N. Boney, Richard L. Hume, and Rafia Zafar. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1992, p. 81.

5. Teamoh, pp. 82 and 179.

6. In 1840 President Martin Van Buren, by Executive Order, changed work hours in federal naval ship yards from 12 to 10 per day. The order as implemented at all federal naval yard stated:

By Direction of the President of the United States all public establishments will hereafter be regulated as to working hours by the "ten hour System". The hours for labor in this Yard will therefore be as follows viz: From the 1st day of April to the 30th day of September inclusive from 6 o'clock a.m. to 6 o'clock p.m. -- during this period the workmen will breakfast before going to work for which purpose the bell will be rung and the first muster held at 7 o'clock -- at 12 o'clock noon the bell will be rung and then home from 12 to 1 o'clock p.m. allowed for dinner from which to 6 o'clock p.m. will constitute the last half of the day.

From the 1st day of October to the 31st day of March the working hours will be from the rising to the setting of the Sun -- the Bell will then be rung at one hour after Sunrise that hour being allowed for breakfast -- at 12 o'clock noon the bell will again be rung and one hour allowed for dinner from which time say 1 o'clock till sundown will constitute the last half of the day. No quarters of days will be allowed.

General Orders for the Regulation of the Navy Yard Washington DC. (Circa 1833 - 1850, order numbers 29), NARA RG 45.

7. GNY Carpenters to Lewis Warrington 9 May 1834, Record of the Board of Navy Commissioners, NARA RG 45, Section 314 Four of the carpenters enumerated on the 1819 1-1820 list, Edward Grant, John and William Luke and Caleb Nash, petitioned the Warrington and the Board for reinstatement after as the disastrous strike of 1833.

8. Wood, Gordon S. The Purpose of the Past Reflections on The Uses of History Penguin Press New York 2008.p 11.

Bibliography

Leland, Waldo G., Archives of the Federal Government in Records of the Columbia Historical Society Washington DC 1908 Volumes 62-65.

McNally, William, Evils and Abuses in the Naval and Merchant Service Exposed; with proposals for their remedy and redress. Cassady and March: Boston, 1839, p.127.

Mellinger, Caroline Lynne, Public slaves and federal largesse: opportunity, privilege, and mechanic opposition at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2000.

Teamoh, George, God Made Man, Man Made the Slave the Autobiography of George Teamoh [edited by] F. N. Boney, Richard L. Hume, and Rafia Zafar.

Macon: Mercer University Press, 1992.Tomlins, Christopher L.(1992) "In Nat Turner's shadow: Reflections on the Norfolk dry dock affair of 1830 -1831", Labor History, 33:4, 494 -518.

Upham – Bornstein, Linda, "Men of Families": The intersection of Labor Conflict and Race in the Norfolk Dry Dock Affair, 1829 -1831 Labor Studies in Working – Class History of Americas, Volume 4, issue, 2007.

Wood, Gordon, S., The Purpose of the Past Reflections on The Uses of History Penguin Press New York, 2008.

Transcription Method

These transcriptions were made from digital images of the undated (circa 1819-1820) "Roll of Mechanics and Laborers employed in the Navy Yard Gosport Virg" and the . "List of persons employed by the Year, including Master Workmen, Shewing the amount of the Salary, Emoluments & pay per month" dated 12 May 1819. These digital images were made at the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. As noted earlier the exact date of the Roll of Mechanics and Laborers, is uncertain and there is some evidence of the roll being incomplete and certain individual names appear more than once. In transcribing this listing I have striven to adhere as closely as possible to the original in spelling, (shewing for showing, laborers / labourers, etc.) capitalization, punctuation and abbreviation (e.g. " F" for Foremen "Do" or "do" and " – " for ditto or same as above) including the retention of dashes, ampersands and overstrikes. On the rolls, employee's names are arranged by department. Where I was unable to provide a clear image or where it was not possible to determine what was written, I have so noted in brackets. Where possible, I have attempted to arrange the transcribed material in a similar manner to that found in the Roll. All transcriptions of documents quoted from NARA are mine.

Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 45, Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, 1798 -1921, Section 70. Payrolls and Lists of Civilian Personnel at Navy Yards, 1811-79, Payrolls of mechanics and laborers, 1819-20, 1822, and n.d.
 

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