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Is it true that 19th-century wheelwrights were extremely highly paid?

I'm quite skeptical of the claim that wheelwrights made $90 a week in 1880s.

San Francisco Call, Volume 67, Number 177, 26 May 1890: A job listing offers $3.50 a day for wheelwrights. Another offers $75(!) but I suspect this is for a project rather than a daily (or weekly) wage.

San Francisco Call, Volume 70, Number 36, 6 July 1891: Two job listings offer $3 a day for wheelwrights. Another offers $30 to $35 for a "wheelwright: orchardist" but again I suspect this is commission work rather than a daily wage.

San Francisco Call, Volume 96, Number 135, 13 October 1904: Two wheelwright job listings offer a daily wage of $3 and $3.50 respectively. And from the San Francisco Call, Volume 96, Number 46, 16 July 1904, three additional job listings for wheelwrights all offer compensation between $3 and $3.50 a day. 

Whew, I think we've figured it out.

Even working daily with no rest, an average wheelwright in San Fransisco from 1890-1905 probably made no more than $25 weekly. Of course with a rising wave of mechanization, it's possible wheelwright wages were previously higher. After all, from 1890 to 1904, their wages do seem to be declining accounting for inflation. And maybe SF wheelwrights were simply paid less than average. Even still, $90 in 1880 seems unlikely for an average American wheelwright.


Wheelwrights in the 1880s almost certainly made far less than $90 a week. Probably not even $45 a week.

For comparison, according to pg. 11 of The Census of Manufacturers: 1905, the average 16+ male wage-earner made $11.16 per week and the average 16+ woman made $6.17.