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Colonial America

Daily Life in the City

Horse and carriage on Williamsburg streets
A carriage in Colonial Williamsburg
Photo by Ducksters
As the American colonies grew, large cities began to emerge. They became centers of trade and business for the surrounding areas. The daily life of people living in the cities was different from that of the average farmer. Many of the people worked as merchants or artisans. There were stores right down the street with plenty of goods, taverns for eating and socializing, and lots of services available like the apothecary and tailor.

Middling Class

The city was the home to many people of the "middling class." These were people who were not poor farmers, but were also not members of the very wealthy gentry class. They consisted of tradesmen (blacksmiths, tailors, coopers, etc.) and professionals (merchants, lawyers, doctors, etc.). Although these people were better off than the average poor farmer, they still worked very hard from sunrise to sunset each day.


People standing outside the shoemakers shop
The shoemaker's store at
Colonial Williamsburg

Photo by Ducksters
Many people working in the cities were tradesmen who had very specific skills. Examples of tradesmen include blacksmiths, tailors, coopers, wheelwrights, and shoemakers. Tradesmen spent their lives learning a skill. Young boys would become apprentices at the age of six or seven years old and would work the next seven or so years learning the trade. Upon finishing their apprenticeship they would become journeymen. Journeymen still worked for a master, but earned wages.

Tradesmen worked long hours in order to be successful. During busy times, they might work 16 hours a day for six days a week. Life wasn't easy as a tradesmen, but they had a good job and were able to provide a nice life for their family.


A professional was a person who had skills gained generally from a higher education. Professionals included occupations such as lawyers, doctors, and merchants. Merchants had to manage their business constantly. They spent time on the docks, traveling to other countries, and trading for goods to sell.

Going to School

Children living in a colonial city had more access to schools and education than those living on farms. Many children, especially boys, attended Dame school where they would learn to read. Boys might attend a Latin Grammar school where they would learn Latin, Greek, and some basic math. Wealthy children would be taught by hired tutors or sent off to school in England.


The church was one of the most important places in a colonial times' town. Everyone was expected to attend church on Sunday. The church often served as the main meeting place when the people of the town needed to get together to discuss issues.

The Enslaved

Not all of enslaved people in colonial times worked in the fields. There were also enslaved that worked in the cities. They either worked at the house (cooks, maids, servants) or as skilled labor for craftsmen. Life as an enslaved worker in the city was not an easy life. Enslaved people were expected to work hard all the time and, in the city, their enslavers were always nearby to make sure they were busy.

Puppet show in colonial times
The puppet show was a popular form of
entertainment during colonial times.
Photo by Ducksters

Interesting Facts about Daily Life in the City During Colonial Times
Colonies and Places
Lost Colony of Roanoke
Jamestown Settlement
Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims
The Thirteen Colonies

Daily Life
Clothing - Men's
Clothing - Women's
Daily Life in the City
Daily Life on the Farm
Food and Cooking
Homes and Dwellings
Jobs and Occupations
Places in a Colonial Town
Women's Roles
William Bradford
Henry Hudson
James Oglethorpe
William Penn
John Smith
Roger Williams

French and Indian War
King Philip's War
Mayflower Voyage
Salem Witch Trials

Timeline of Colonial America
Glossary and Terms of Colonial America

Works Cited

History >> Colonial America

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