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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Railroad laborer wages in Alaska 1912


Date: 11/30/16 19:12
Railroad laborer wages in Alaska 1912
Author: eminence_grise

From a collection of Alaskan railroad memorabilia I recently purchased.

​Three laborer's time slips from the Copper River & Northwestern Railway Company and the Katalla Company.

​These are carbon copies of wage claims submitted by a Foreman or a timekeeper on behalf of three different employees. I'm assuming the Katalla Company was a construction company related to the railroad.

One shows the number of a brass check #2463. I'm assuming the laborers were issued brass tags with a number for identification.

​The work location for the railroad camps appears to be "Uranalina", and the construction camp is 2.

​These are the laborers wages for the month of May 1912. 

For ten hours of work for the Katalla Company, Fred Olson received $3.50 or 35 cents an hour. No taxes were deducted but $2 was deducted for "board" (room & board at Camp 2), resulting in take home pay of $1.50.

​For 30 hours of work on the Copper River & Northwestern, J. Peto (or possibly Pets) received $10.50,less $3.50 board and $1.50 hospital fee for a take home of $5.30

​For 35 hours of the same railroad, J.Nelson received $12.25, with a deduction for board of $4.35 and a hospital fee of $1.50 for a take home of $6.40

One question comes to mind, was the "hospital fee" of $1.50 a monthly deduction which all employees paid to support a company hospital and sick pay scheme?.

Written over the time slip is the notation "Phoned at time and date by RJD" , likely either a railroad telegrapher or a train dispatcher transmitting the information to the headquarters at Cordova AK. I'm thinking these are the third or fourth carbon copies, retained by the telegrapher who relayed the information by phone.

A history of the railroad mentioned that the distinction between railroad employment and construction or mining among workers on the railroad was not clearly defined.

All three employees received the same wage of 35 cents an hour, and had similar identification tag numbers.

​Were these employees paid in cash? Probably, from a railroad pay car quite likely. That is where the "brass check" identification would have been used.

Seen from a distance of 104 years in the future, these wages seem incredibly small. The Copper River and Northwestern was owned by copper companies from the "lower 48", and fabulous profits were made by those companies as copper wire was needed for wiring and electric motors.

I have seen similar time checks from a railroad in British Columbia from the same period. The wages were similar, but there were different hourly wages for different races.
​Japanese workers were segregated on separate gangs and received lower wages.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/30/16 19:14 by eminence_grise.




Date: 12/01/16 09:43
Re: Railroad laborer wages in Alaska 1912
Author: GN_X838

Thank you for posting..  My father, Nels J. Larson, was hired in Seattle and went up by ship.
He said they put in the railroad and started the mine, but it did not pay off. The mine was
shut down and the crew returned to Seattle. I talked to a Lady from that area and was told 
the road up the Copper river is on the old railroad grade. I know he said it was the 1910 time.
Dad returned to the Wenatchee valley of Washington and homesteaded what is now
Larson Canyon on Peshastin creek.
He was hired by a similar company to work on the Cascade tunnel. He also worked at the
Red Mountain Mine on the Chawawa river.....Swede.......Albany,Or.



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