Jun 27, 2024 - Sale 2675

Sale 2675 - Lot 224

Price Realized: $ 1,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(NEW YORK.) Pair of labor account books from the early expansion of the Erie Canal. [86], [47] manuscript pages. Folio, unmatched ½ or ¼ calf over marbled boards, worn and dampstained. [Cohoes, NY], 1837-1842

Additional Details

The Erie Canal was completed in 1825, and its first major enlargement project began in 1836. These ledgers document the enlargement work on Lock No. 10 in Cohoes, NY, at the eastern end of the canal just north of Troy. Remnants of the lock's wall can still be seen in George Street Park at the south end of Lancaster Street, Cohoes.

Volume 1 is 86 pages in length, measuring 13 x 8 inches, and consisting mainly of daily attendance tables for laborers on Lock No. 10 from January 1837 to December 1838. For each day, workers are credited with either zero, a quarter, a half, three quarters, or one full day of work. At least one leaf is torn out; moderate dampstaining has obscured small portions of text. Up to 40 men would sometimes be employed at a time, but the size of the crews seems to have fluctuated wildly.

Volume 2 is a monthly payroll daybook running from May 1839 to September 1842. It contains 47 manuscript pages, is taller and narrower at 15½ x 6¼ inches, and has heavy dampstaining at the fore-edge which sometimes affects legibility. It basically consists of a running list of men paid for work on Lock No. 10, how many days they worked, and their daily rate. Sometimes the type of work is noted--often cutting stone. Purchases of supplies such as oats, harnesses, coal, and gunpowder are interspersed with the payroll. The names of laborers appear to be predominantly Irish, such as Michael Ryan, Peter Kelley, and Pat Carroll.

The contractor in charge of the laborers in the earlier volume was Francis Hitchins (1802-1876). He was an English immigrant who came to the United States, declared his citizenship intentions in Hoosick, NY in 1835, and then settled in Lockport in western New York by 1840. There he became a pillar of the community, remaining active in canal work while also assisting with the Underground Railroad. The accounts in the 1839 volume were paid by his brother John Hitchens (1814-1884) of Troy, NY.