A Jobs-Based Complaint About Technological Change, circa 1850

Come all ye bold wagoners turn out man by man
That’s opposed to the railroad or any such a plan;
‘Tis once I made money by driving my team
But the goods are now hauled on the railroad by steam.
May the devil get the fellow that invented the plan.
It’ll ruin us poor wag’ners and every other man.
IL spoils our plantations wherever it may cross,
And it ruins our markets, so we can’t sell a hoss.
If we go to Philadelphia, inquiring for a load,
They’ll tell us quite directly it’s gone out on the railroad.
The rich folks, the plan klonopintabs they may justly admire,
But it ruins us poor wag’ners and it makes our taxes higher:
Our states they are indebted to keep them in repair,
Which causes us poor wag’ners to curse and to swear.
It ruins our landlords, it makes business worse,
And to every other nation it has only been a curse.
It ruins wheelwrights, blacksmiths, and every other trade,
So damned be all the railroads that ever was made.
It ruins our mechanics, what think you of it, then?
And it fills our country full of just a lot of great rich men.

Read the whole thing here.

6 thoughts on “A Jobs-Based Complaint About Technological Change, circa 1850”

  1. I saw this poem on the wall next to the Conestoga Wagon exhibit at the Agricultural & Industrial Museum in York, PA. Lots of other interesting stuff there. There was a huge refrigeration machine, for icemaking, dating from around 1900. Apparently there was a great epidemic of food poisoning, sometime around 1890 IIRC, which raised everybody’s consciousness (well, at least among the survivors) about the importance of the “cold chain”, as it is now called.

  2. Can be sung to the tune of “The times they are a changin” by Robert Dylan. Use his refrain.

  3. Speaking of Irish working on the railroads, here are The Weavers singing Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay, a.k.a. Paddy on the Railway. Some variations on the song are working only in the British Isles or working in the Civil War era.

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