City life

As the colonies got bigger and bigger, there were large cities that began to be built.  These large cities were places where people could do business, such as trading.

People that lived in the city lived differently than those that lived on the farm.  Many of the people that lived in the city were store workers, merchants, traders, and artisans.  An artisan is someone that makes a specific trade, such as a blacksmith.


The city during colonial times was a lot like a city that we have today.  There were stores, shops, taverns, and other things that the people could do.

One exciting thing was that most of the people that we’re tradesmen and craftsmen lived or worked in the city at specialty shops.  It was likely that you would find shops such as a blacksmith shop, sewing shops, shops for printing, and more.

Middle-Class People

Most of the people that lived in the city were middle-class people or the middle class.  These people were not poor farmers, and they were not the wealthy plantation owners, but they were the people that were in the middle class.

These people were mostly the ones that had unique trades that they could do, such as the coopers, tailors, blacksmiths, printers, and the professional people that had trades such as doctors and lawyers.

Another group of people that lived in the city was the merchants.  The merchants were the people that had a living of running the shops and trading things.

Even though these people were not as poor or hard-working as the farmers, they still worked hard and usually worked from daylight to dark doing their jobs.

Tradesmen and Craftsmen

The people that were the tradesmen and craftsmen were the ones that had specific skills that they were good at.  These people learned these skills from a very young life and learned skills that would allow them to have good jobs.

A tradesman would start learning the skill as early as six years old, and they were considered apprentices because they worked under their father for a few years until they got good at their trade.  Once they finished their apprenticeship, they would become journeymen.

A journeyman still worked under the tradesman master, but he would start getting paid once he was a journeyman.

A tradesman had to work hard to make a living for his family.  Sometimes, a tradesman would work for more than 15 hours a day.  Life was never easy for these people; they worked hard and hardly had time to see their families.

A tradesman would work to make sure that his family had a lovely home and things to have.


The professional people were the ones that had more education than the tradesmen, but they still had a specific skill.

Today, we call these same people professionals, but they are not the middle-class workers, but they are the high-class workers.  These people are lawyers, doctors, and merchants.

The merchants were the business owners, and they spent a lot of time running the shops to sell things and then going on a boat to other places so that they could trade their goods for money.


There were not a lot of schools during the early part of the colonial times, and boys were given more education than girls were.

Many of the girls were taught at home and learned to take care of their homes by watching and helping their mom.

Boys might be able to go to Latin school and learn Latin, math, and religion.  Some of the more affluent people or of the gentry class would have their children tutored at home.

Later on, the cities began to make elementary schools as long as the city had 50 or more families, and then most children were able to attend these schools that lived in those cities.


One of the most important things in the city was the church.  People knew that on Sunday that it was church day, and everyone would gather together.

The church was used as a place for religion, but it was also a place that the people would sometimes gather to have meetings and to discuss problems in the area.


Some slaves worked in the city even though most of them worked in the fields.  These slaves even had some types of skills such as cooking, cleaning, and were sometimes even craftsmen.

Living as a slave in the city was not easy, and the slaves were expected to work all the time and to work hard.  Their master was always around to make sure that they stayed busy and that they worked hard.

Facts About City Life:

  • The tavern was not just a place to go and drink and eat. It was also a place where the people could discuss things about the city, such as political things.
  • People that lived in the city dressed nicer than people that lived on the farms.
  • Many of the meddling class and gentry class wore long wigs that were powdered.
  • Dancing was a big thing during colonial times, and much of this was done in the city.
  • Fishermen and farmers were often found in the city selling their crops and their fish.
  • Even as early as 1760, some of the bigger cities had more than 20,000 people.

What Did You Learn?

Who mostly lived in the city?
Most of the people that lived in the city were the middle class.

What kind of stores were found in the city?
The stores located in the city were the stores of the tradesmen and craftsmen, such as a blacksmith or a printer.

What were some important places in the city?
Some of the important places in the city were the churches, shops, and taverns.

What was important about the church?
The church was a place where the people would get together on Sunday to worship God, and also, they would use the church for meetings.

Did the people in the city dress differently than those on the farms?
Yes.  The people that lived in the city would dress nicer than those on the farm, and many of them would wear wigs that were powdered.