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Risk Sharing, Crew Quality, Labor Shares and Wages in the Nineteenth Century American Whaling Industry

Lance E. Davis, Robert E. Gallman, Teresa D. Hutchins

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 13
Issued in May 1990
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

This paper examines 36.640 labor contracts signed between whalemen and the agents who organized 1,258 whaling voyages that departed from New Bedford, Massachusetts between January I. 1840 and December 31, 1858 and between January I and December 31, 1866. The contracts contain information on the whaleman's station (occupation) and on his lay (the fraction of output of the voyage that he was entitled to receive upon completion). The paper investigates the benefits associated with this unique contract. examines the occupational and spatial distribution of lays. and compares wages in whaling with those available in the merchant marine and those earned in shore based pursuits. It also attempts to assess the efficiency of this early labor market and to explore the relationship between the labor contract, crew quality. technical change. and productivity.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0013

Published: T. Weiss, and D. Schaefer, eds., American Economic Development in Historical Perspective, Stanford University Press, 1993

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