Pay rates in 1851 on the Dakota Territory frontier.

Interior of Fort Union, North Dakota. View from the southwest blockhouse. Photo by James Ulvog.

Fort Union in the Dakota Territory was a major trading post constructed and operated by the American Fur Company. For a few years after it was built in 1828 the major trade was obtaining beaver pelts from various Indian tribes. In the 1830s the predominant trade item was buffalo hides.

What were employees of the company operation paid? A plaque at Fort Union provides the following pay scales:

workman assistant120102
clerk / interpreter8006715

In addition, all employees were provided room and board.

The lower skilled employees, specifically hunters and workmen ate at the “second table”, which was basics, meat biscuit, coffee with sugar. The clerks ate at the “first table”, which is where the boss man and his family ate. They had the better food, keep in mind there was limited availability and selection on the frontier.

For context, keep in mind this was about a dozen years before the start of the Civil War. Previous post provides pay scale for US Army in the 1860s and 1870s. Pay from the American For Fur Company corresponds to the skillful privates through second lieutenants two or three decades later.

The museum provides the following quote with citation:

Description of wages for various trades at Fort Union, North Dakota. Photo by James Ulvog.

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