In today’s blog post we’re going to have a look back at the social structure, jobs and wages of the Fort Edmontonians back in 1840’s. At this time, your social structure was largely determined by the hierarchy at the Hudson Bay Company. Since all men residing within the establishment were company employees, they were defined by their roles within the corporate structure. Below is an outline of the general corporate structure at the Fort during the mid 1840’s, their wages then – and their comparative wages today.
||Wages in the 1840’s
||Equivalent in CAD Today*
|Chief Factors||Commission based ~ £400-£600||$52,000 – $78,000|
|Chief Traders||Commission based ~ £400-£600||$52,000 – $78,000|
|Interpreters, postmasters & guides||£25-£50||$3,000 – $6000|
|Tradesmen||£25-£40||$3,000 – $5,200|
|Boatmen – Steersmans||£22||$2,850|
|Boatmen – Bowsmen||£20||$2,600|
|Boatmen – Middleman||£17||$2,200|
|Seasonal or unskilled labourer||Variable||Variable|
Chief Factors & Traders were the high ranking managers of the Fort. They were the only individuals to share in the HBC profits as a whole. The shares varied from year to year based on the earnings of the HBC – a share was worth as much as £600, and on poorer years, as low as £250. For the most part these salaries are what men could expect to earn on the fringes of the British Isles. Wages in London could be as much as double the salaries shown here – because of this, the HBC did not generally recruit men from London.
Compared to the wages of today, you can see a drastic difference in upper and lower society. It appears a good wage was hard to come by in Edmonton at this time.