Advocating The Man
Masculinity, Organized Labor, and the Household in New York, 1800-1840
by Joshua R. Greenberg


Chapter Two — Individual


In the spring of 1809, members of the Journeymen House Carpenters' Union chose Robert Townsend Jr. to head a committee charged with crafting a public appeal to inform the city of the men's plight and their decision to turn out from work. Alongside specific observations of the carpenters' economic circumstances, Townsend drafted a strike manifesto outlining the bond between individual men and society:

By the social compact every class of society ought to be entitled to benefit in proportion to its usefulness, and the time and expense necessary to its qualification. Among the duties which individuals owe to society are single men to marry and married men to educate their children. Among the duties which society owes to individuals is to grant them compensation for services sufficient not only for the current expenses of livelihood, but to the formation of a fund for the support of that time of life when nature requires a cessation from labor.1

While acknowledging a general view of labor theory of value here, Townsend tied the point to the demographic realities of household economy and based the organization's strike justification on a social compact that called for society to justly redress men who upheld their duty as husbands and fathers.2 Like other organized working men, Townsend's tangible household experience as a husband and father and his professed domestic obligations grounded his organized labor rhetoric and activities. He joined the labor movement specifically as a husband and father, not in spite of the fact.

This chapter analyzes the lives of house carpenter Robert Townsend Jr. and printer Theophilus Eaton to demonstrate that individual working men primarily defined themselves as household actors and forged a close relationship between their perceived domestic experiences and obligations and their outside-the-home conduct in the labor movement. These examples do not demonstrate causality as much as they contextualize the relationship between household experiences and workplace/political experiences. As in Chapter One, a primary argument here is that working men should be viewed as household actors who did not experience a separate sphere's life, and in turn did not develop a labor movement divorced from the home. Like their contemporaries, Townsend and Eaton entered unionism and labor party organizing as husbands and fathers with specific perceived household duties and their activities reflected these concerns. Their stories show that the fact that the vast majority of organized men married and headed households was more than mere statistical occurrence; it was a critical aspect of why trade unions and working men's political parties acted and sounded the way they did. So, while neither Townsend's nor Eaton's demographic circumstances perfectly match the sample group portrait, their lives highlight the importance of domestic and neighborhood ties to organized working men's lives.

Theophilus Eaton

Although Theophilus Eaton only belonged to the New York Typographical Society for a few years and his early life is somewhat of a mystery, numerous documents do survive detailing his domestic and workplace experiences during the approximate half decade he and his family lived in the city. Shortly before moving to Brooklyn from upstate Chenango County in early 1809, Theophilus attempted to improve his economic situation by printing his own political newspaper, The President.3 Unfortunately, the business venture failed, his debt increased dramatically, and the resulting money woes dogged Eaton for years as he tried to keep himself, his wife, and their small daughter out of poverty.


In New York, Eaton joined the Typographical Society and participated in an 1809 printers' strike. However, unionization and household cost-cutting maneuvers did not help his fortunes and his pecuniary difficulties caught up to him a few years later around the time he and his wife welcomed a son. In order to satisfy numerous creditors and stay out of debtors' prison, Theophilus Eaton filed as an insolvent debtor on September 5, 1811. A couple of years later Eaton wrote two books: Review of New-York, or Rambles Through the City. Original Poems. Moral, Religious, Sarcastic, Descriptive and Compass Table, or Topographical Gazetteer: Showing the Principal Cities, Villages, Towns, and Fortifications, in the United States and Canada: With Topographical Remarks and Giving the Distance and Precise Bearing of Each From New York City. Even though Review of New-York went through a second edition in 1814, neither book sold particularly well and by the middle of the 1810s, Eaton and his family left New York to move back upstate. Theophilus Eaton died of consumption in May of 1820 in Bethlehem, New York in the home of relative Henry Eaton. He was 34 years old.4

Detailed in his insolvency proceedings, Theophilus Eaton's credit account and estate inventory reveal an organized working man who primarily allocated his paltry funds for his household's room and board. The process of becoming an insolvent debtor involved something of a compromise wherein creditors agreed to drop claims and not seek imprisonment in return for the debtor declaring and then handing over to the creditors whatever assets remained. The process predated personal bankruptcy, but fulfilled many of the same benefits to each side. In Eaton's particular case, 27 creditors made claims for amounts ranging from 50 cents for cash to Jos. Holfe up to $359.50 for rent, provisions, and moving expenses dating back to his time living in upstate New York in Chenango County. Eaton's bills did not include luxury purchases, but rather household goods and necessities such as $2.50 for soap and candles owed to an unnamed creditor. The insolvency file also documents a relationship between Eaton's domestic economic woes and his membership in the Typographical Society. Fellow member Hezekiah Ripley served as one of the witnesses to the legal proceeding.

Related document:
Theophilus Eaton's Insolvency File
Outside of household expenses, Eaton's debts arose from his attempt to found his own short-lived newspaper business. In 1808, he borrowed a total of $79 from ten people to launch the venture, but he had not paid the money back three years later. Rather than an extravagance, Eaton borrowed this money in the hopes of eventually making a profit for himself and his family, but the endeavor proved a failure. Eaton also owed Asa Wilcox $20 for service as a post-rider, stemming from his days printing The President. Wilcox sued for the money in 1809, but was still waiting to be paid in 1811.

Just as Eaton's financial liabilities reflected few, if any opulent purchases, creditors could not redeem their debts from fancy items in Eaton's estate, but rather from an assortment of domestic furnishings and goods common to most journeymen's homes. The estate inventory details a modest collection of household items such as a tea pot, teakettle, 12 dishes, 2 bowls, a tumbler, 10 cups and saucers and some meager furniture including a bed stand and a small chest. Eaton owned three changes of clothing, a pair of boots, and two pairs of shoes, with his wife and son's clothing fitting inside their small trunk. For amusement, Eaton owned a flute and only one piece of jewelry, a breast pin. Evidence of Eaton's business attempt remained in the home as well: a bound volume of The President, a ledger, and a day-book. Eaton's financial holdings included $2.85 in cash, promissory notes for $20 and $25, and a signed judgment against William Garrat for $90 that he owed Eaton for advertising in The President. The amount was supposed to be paid in turnpike stock, but like Eaton, Garrat paid his debts late.5 Again and again, Theophilus Eaton's insolvency file portrays a journeyman printer whose economic life cannot be separated from his domestic life and whose energies were spent in the pursuit of ways to provide for his family's needs.

Eaton's experience with debt and insolvency seemed to embitter him, but his ability to stay out of debtor's prison allowed him another attempt at fulfilling his family obligations. Capitalizing on his freedom, but still smarting from his series of pecuniary failures, he published Review of New-York, or Rambles Through the City, a meandering book of poetry that contained his thoughts on finances, the credit system, and other aspects of city life. In one semi-autobiographical verse he wrote:

Before we hear THE DEBTOR mourn
Prosperity's too slow return;
Alas! I owe, but cannot pay,
The time is up this very day;
I've not a twentieth part in hand,
To serve my friend's most just demand,
What shall I do? or how excuse?
To tell my loss is not of use,
For creditors can never bear
Impov'rish'd debtors' plaints to hear.
Oh, that I could once be free,
I ne'er again involv'd would be,
Who first gets rich, may borrow trash,
Who borrows poor, must bear the lash;
So Martin said, and ran away,
To answer for't some other day.6

Theophilus' Eaton's pained words here not only expressed the exasperation he felt in trying to overcome adversity and provide for his household obligations, they offered specific critiques of New York's market economy. Even as early as 1813, he noted how difficult it was for men of little means (like himself) to obtain credit or make enough to repay a loan if they did manage to secure one. He saw a financial world around him set up to benefit the wealthy and keep poor men from moving up.

Of course the end result of prolonged debt and no means of advance was a consistent struggle to uphold domestic responsibilities. Theophilus Eaton's poetry also spoke to the journeyman's difficulty in feeding his family:

Without a barley loaf to feed
Himself, his wife, or e'en his seed.
And smiling as he mov'd, went out,
To see what he should go about.
He felt some little pang of grief,
Perhaps, to think that no relief
Was in his means, for those who were
Dependent on his work and care.7

For Eaton and others who self-identified as husbands and fathers and allotted most of their money for family expenses, economic setbacks immediately translated to household deprivation and a failure to uphold their role as breadwinners.

While Theophilus Eaton's money woes inspired some heartfelt poetry in the years after his insolvency proceedings, they also influenced his decision regarding household governance in the years before becoming an official debtor. When Eaton moved his family from upstate to New York City, he chose to settle in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, rather than in Manhattan. Flatbush was only a few miles from the heart of the city and its cheaper rent offered a cost-cutting option for Eaton's financially struggling family. Within months of the move, Eaton joined the newly-formed New York Typographical Society just before they struck in the autumn of 1809. We do not know his specific motivations for organizing, but given his money woes, he most likely he saw the move as useful and/or necessary for his and his family's economic welfare.

In the midst of the 1809 strike and throughout his first two years in the organization, Eaton's decision to settle outside New York City's proper boundaries was the subject of much controversy.8 Eaton's explanation that his place of residence was an attempt to address his family's debt did not matter much to some Society members, who thought that everyone should reside within the city limits as much for structural continuity as for ideals of unity. The pressure on Eaton from the Society must have been intense because in spite of the cost, he moved his family to Pearl Street in the Fourth Ward at the beginning of August, 1811.9 The residence matter, a running point of debate in Typographical Society minutes for over a year, quickly dropped following Eaton's household relocation.


An analysis of New York Typographical Society housing patterns shows why Theophilus Eaton's choice to settle his family in the Flatbush neighborhood perturbed members so much. A profile of men from the 1810s Typographical Society shows that like other trade unions, large numbers lived in clusters (in this case, within the Fourth and Sixth Wards). When Theophilus Eaton's family moved to Pearl Street, they lived very close to fellow unionist Robert Simonson. Other Society members residing in the area included Sidney W. Andrews and John Wickliff Donnington, neighbors whose families lived on Duane Street. George Francis and Ebenezer Ruland, likewise headed households near one another on Pell Street. James Smith's and Joseph Broderick's immigrant families even rented apartments in the same building at 30 Cross Street.10 It is hard to measure what affect such domestic clustering had on the labor movement, but it does provide one more piece of evidence that trade unions were as much about households and neighborhoods as they were about workplaces.

The residence episode with the Typographical Society certainly inspired Eaton to pay more attention to his neighborhood relationships and his surroundings. In 1813, he wrote two books reflecting his connection to New York and the world around him. Eaton's Compass Table, or Topographical Gazetteer: Showing the Principal Cities, Villages, Towns, and Fortifications, in the United States and Canada: With Topographical Remarks and Giving the Distance and Precise Bearing of Each From New York City, mapped out the nation's important cities and towns and explained their distance and relationship to his home in New York.11 The book's short descriptions also encompassed a mercantile bent that presented clues to which towns offered trading possibilities. For example, it indicated that Newark, New Jersey was a "considerable place for business," but that Bridgeport, Connecticut was "a place of little note and less trade."12 Eaton's other book, his aforementioned book of poetry, Review of New-York, or Rambles Through the City, described the sights and sounds of the city and the place of men such as Eaton within it.

Whether or not moving to the printer's neighborhood in the Fourth Ward taught Theophilus Eaton about the importance of neighborhood connections is questionable, but he did write about the difficulties of securing proper family housing in a poem a couple of years later. He noted how neighborliness helped guard against corrupt landlords, who bullied and exploited poor tenants. Theophilus Eaton wrote of a typical landlord:

Who unceasing frets.
That he is rich is not enough.
But he must needs blow too, and puff,
And fret, and scold, and saucy be,
Whene'er his tenants he can see;
He is not pleas'd, there's something wrong,
They leave too soon, or stay too long,
Or are too proud, perhaps too mean,
Or have too fickle-minded been.
A cure, my lad. I have for such,
'Tis to concern yourself as much
About your own behavior, then
You'll find your tenants better men.
Polite and easy be, and kind,
'Twill form your tenants to your mind.
Many a man that can't be drove,
Oft times won over is by love.
Poor folks, as well as rich are proud,
Declare their rights as quick and loud;
But landlords that are just and kind,
Most always faithful tenants find.
Try this, dear sir, for once and see,
If all the fault is not in thee.
What there of it you cannot find,
Impute to feebleness of mind.
But hark, hear madam Goody tell
About the babes she ns'd so well.13

Aside from debt issues, there is no evidence that Eaton ever had a specific problem with a landlord. However, his admonition to those individuals who treated their tenants poorly to change their ways seemed like it came from someone with firsthand experience. As with his debtor poetry, his gloss on landlords also reflected the view that poor and working people should command more respect and deserved equal opportunities.

Eaton's discussion of neighborhood relationships also included his praise for firemen who protected his and other households. While no records exist that Theophilus Eaton ever served as a volunteer fireman, his neighborhood ties certainly brought him into contact with fires and their effect on working households. Reflecting his knowledge of who performed the dangerous work of fire prevention, he specifically cited carpenters contributions:

These useful men deserve respect,
For they build up and then protect,
By sound repairs, and timely aid;
And fortunes not a few have made.14

Eaton also wrote about the challenges that fires presented to working men's households in his poetry, noting the material as well as the personal costs for the city's families as he mused:

And to observe how Chatham-street
Has suffer'd from the fire of late.
Near sixty houses laid in dust,
And this of evils not the worst;
For families two hundred more
Were robb'd of home in one short hour.15

The fire he cited on Chatham Street did not affect Eaton's family personally (he was living in Flatbush at the time), but it did affect Lucius Bayamin, a member of the journeyman Cordwainer's Union who appeared at the conspiracy trial in 1810, and other working men's families. What alarmed Theophilus Eaton was the precarious nature of domestic life in New York and the speed at which family comforts and a stable domestic life could be taken away.

While it is difficult to determine exactly how stable Eaton's home life was, there are some clues showing that he better fit the organized working men's portrait of a steady family man than a rambunctious urban youth. Included among the dozens of debts Eaton confronted at his insolvency proceedings was only one beer tab for 50 cents at an East George Street establishment and one for $5.00 of ale. Considering the fact that his total debt amounted to just over $900 spent over a six year period, drinking was probably not a high priority for Eaton.16 His poetry even discussed "the drunkard's character":

And here he lies a limpsey heap,
The gutter's company to keep,
Or else to rest, or cool his blood,
While from his mouth proceeds a flood
Of curdled food and stinking rum --
Now drunkards are most troublesome,
And hard to tame, and rarely learn
To keep the name or pence they earn.
One has a fund from whence he draws,
Though drunk, the world's unweigh'd applause,
And from the means he holds, contrives
To half maintain a dozen wives.17

Critical of this description is the linking of alcohol abuse and the inability to properly maintain household obligations and provide for one's family. Whether it was banking or drinking, Eaton consistently tied activities that occurred in the supposedly masculine sphere outside the home to domestic responsibility and the fate of workers' households.

Like many organized working men, Theophilus Eaton's religious convictions remain a mystery, but again some of his writings offer a window into his thoughts on social justice. On the issues of slavery and animal cruelty he penned:

We'll the CRUEL MASTER call,
Beat alike the slave and horse,
Pound the dog and kick the cat,
Time will bring you sore remorse,
God will judge you just for that,
Orphans have an angel guard,
Injur'd beasts shall be reveng'd,
Beat them often, pound them hard,
For the scene will soon be chang'd.
Poor and needy negroes have
Equal interest with God,
Their's shall be a peaceful grave,
While a hell is your reward.
Beat alike the slave and horse,
Pound the dog and kick the cat,
Time will bring you sore remorse,
God will judge you just for that.18

This fascinating passage was not an explicit anti-slavery or animal rights statement, but rather it was another aspect of Eaton's worldview as a husband and father whose primary responsibility was to protect and provide for dependents. Eaton infused the lines with a paternalism sanctioned by God that held that masters of any sort had an obligation to care for the well-being of their charges. For Eaton, this meant fulfilling his household duties; for other men, it meant the proper care of their dependents, whether children, African American slaves, or animals.

Theophilus Eaton's commitment to personally fulfill and rhetorically champion a version of masculinity based on household maintenance and providing for one's dependents likewise grounded his organized labor activities. As a member of New York's Typographical Society, Eaton participated in a strike for an increase in wages in 1809. However, he clearly did so concurrently with his difficulty in balancing financial duty and household necessities. In the midst of the strike, Eaton called for the Society to temper their demands and demonstrate more caution for the sake of satisfying family obligations. He declared that due to "the infancy of our society, our want of funds, and the inability of some of the members to stand out a great length of time," the union should accept an employer compromise.19 It was not a disagreement with the nature of the walkout that troubled Eaton, it was the toll on his family and the families of other printers the longer they went without working. The calculation to end the strike prematurely and return to work met with approval from fellow printers with families to support and the Society agreed to a new price list with their employers soon after.20 As this example reveals, labor conflicts occurred in the workplace and physically outside the home, but turned on domestic experiences and the material realities of the household.

Robert Townsend Jr.

Related document:
Prison Ship Memorial
Although house carpenter Robert Townsend Jr.'s household material circumstances varied significantly from Theophilus Eaton's, his participation in the labor movement also closely integrated household responsibility and obligation into workplace and political activities. Like Eaton, there are some questions about the circumstances of Townsend's early life. One version of the story has Robert born on board the prison ship Jersey in New York harbor during the final years of the Revolutionary War. Both his father (Robert Townsend AKA Samuel Culper Jr.) and mother worked as spies for Washington (and kept their romance a secret), although the British captured her following the murder of English Major André. Townsend's anonymous mother died during child birth and sympathetic friends smuggled baby Robert off to Brooklyn, where two women raised him while he received financial support, but no public acknowledgment, from his wealthy father. Supposedly, the circumstances of this upbringing inspired Townsend, whose first public energies went into the 1808 erection of a Brooklyn monument to victims of Revolutionary War prison ships.21

However, more recent findings cite Robert's mother as Mary Banvard, an immigrant servant from Nova Scotia in Townsend Sr.'s household, who raised him with another man that she later married.22 Townsend Jr. himself explained his extraordinary beginnings at a Loco Foco Party convention following his decision to decline a nomination to run as Lieutenant Governor. He noted that:

His mother, confiding girl, had been deceived by a gentlemen of high respectability, and he was born an illegitimate child. While the world's law stigmatized him, nullius fillius, the son of nobody, an outcast; while the morality of society rejected his mother as an utterly despicable being, the same code of laws and morality elevated his father to the State Senate, and thus the author of his mother's shame and his own odious birth, suffered not, lost not his caste in society, notwithstanding his real guilt, and the shame and misery his heartless conduct inflicted.23

Whatever the actual facts of the story, Townsend, well into his fifties in 1836, still praised his mother's "moral worth and native goodness" even as he distanced himself from his famous father.


It is not very useful to try to probe Townsend's psyche to explain his feelings toward his parents, but it is interesting to contextualize his statement given his activities as a savvy politician in the Democratic Party, Working Men's Party, Anti-Masonic Party, and later, the Loco Foco Party. It seems to go against political opportunism and the concept of artisan republicanism for a skilled operative to consciously snub the political capital of being the son of a Revolutionary War hero in order to praise his unknown mother's morality.24 What these events repeatedly return to is the importance of household ties and issues, even in the midst of workplace, or in this case, political activities.

Robert Townsend Jr.'s public career began as a part of Tammany Hall and for more than thirty years, he actively participated as a distinguished member in trade unions, labor political parties, and other working men's social groups. By his mid-twenties, Townsend occupied a leading position in the Journeymen House Carpenters' Union and still maintained his labor ties a quarter of a century later as a member of the Union Society of Journeymen House Carpenters. He represented this later group as a delegate and later treasurer for the citywide General Trades' Union and also the countrywide National Trades' Union in 1834. Townsend also entered the world of labor politics as a neighborhood operative in the Working Men's Party (WMP). In 1836, he served in the New York State Assembly as a Loco Foco and later held posts as a city sealer and city weigher of merchandise. In 1839 and 1840, Townsend acted as president of the Social Reform Society of New York, an organization that opposed monopoly banking and called for greater public participation in crafting state law.25 Townsend passed away a few years later, surviving past his 60th birthday.

Although he was only in his mid-twenties in 1809, Robert Townsend Jr. clearly crafted the house carpenters' union's strike manifesto and social compact from the perspective of a head of household with real domestic material concerns. While he was younger than many unionists in the Chapter One sample group, Townsend's family of five individuals (his wife, two young daughters, an older female over 45, and himself) already matched the average size by the time of the strike.26 It was the challenge of maintaining such a large family that drove the carpenters' labor actions; they formulated their appeal within the context of lived household experiences. The strike manifesto included a sample family budget for five individuals to show the "justice and necessity" of their demands for an eleven shilling a day wage ($1.37˝). Utilizing such specific figures reflected the fact that Robert Townsend Jr. and the Journeymen House Carpenters' Union were not striking in the name of any particularized group consciousness or individual acquisitiveness; they were demanding a wage that enabled them to fully support their household obligations. Throughout his life, Townsend repeatedly participated in such actions related to perceived family responsibility.

Bucking the demographic trend of some other working men, Townsend's household actually grew from seven individuals in 1820 to twelve people in the 1830s.27 However, even with a much larger household, there is no record of Townsend confronting any of the serious financial problems that Theophilus Eaton dealt with in his life. With seemingly less day-to-day economic desperation and numerous older children who contributed to the household, Townsend turned his attention to the issue of education.

As a leading member of the Working Men's Party, he actively helped draft policy directives that sought to increase educational opportunities for the rising generation. Townsend even presided over an upstate party convention in the summer of 1830 that resolved to create a "more universal" public school system, "so that no child in the republic, however poor, should grow up without an opportunity to acquire at least a competent English education." Such steps were needed, the convention declared, because of "the great number of children growing up in our cities and populous towns, without the benefit of early instruction, and without the means of acquiring it."28 While this push for free public education was a new political issue for the Working Men (as will be detailed in Chapter Six), it was not a new concern for Townsend who had included "education of children" as a necessary household expense in his 1809 family budget.29 Support for education obviously stemmed from more than just personal benefit or immediate family concern; it connected Townsend with other working fathers in the community who tried to provide opportunities for their children.


Like Theophilus Eaton, Robert Townsend Jr. developed communal neighborhood bonds outside of his family that played an important role in maintaining his position within labor politics. While it is hard to argue a causal link between Townsend's organized actions and his community ties, it is vital to recognize the role that the residential neighborhood played in his labor activities. Early nineteenth-century political parties in New York City organized through a local ward structure, capitalizing on the interplay between organized men's attachment to their households and neighborhoods in order to attract members.30 Early in the 1810s, Townsend moved his family from the Fifth Ward to the Eighth Ward, where they resided for the next three decades.31 As demonstrated in Chapter One, for unionists such as Townsend, housing location did relate to organized labor activities. This neighborhood straddling the Eight and Ninth Wards was one of two (the other bordered the Tenth and Thirteenth Wards) that drew most of the members of the Union Society of House Carpenters in the mid-1830s.32

At a time when so many men and their families experienced residential turnover, and could not put down firm roots, Robert Townsend's consistent presence in the area surely aided his standing in the union and his burgeoning political career. He tested his good relationship with his Eighth Ward neighbors when he ventured into politics as part of the Working Men's Party and the Loco Foco Party. Townsend's long neighborhood tenure and community outreach rewarded him with good name recognition and local support as the successful Loco Foco Party candidate for state assembly in 1836. During his years with the WMP, Townsend served on the Working Men's Ward Eight Vigilance Committee, whose duties included maintaining party ranks and enforcing local party allegiance. However, communal bonds did not ensure positive political relationships. The WMP's factional infighting (detailed in Chapter Six) that eventually destroyed the party began, significantly, at neighborhood ward meetings. Robert Townsend, a leader in Noah Cook's moderate faction, was himself forcibly removed from the chair of a Ward Eight meeting after being voted down by Robert Dale Owen's followers.

While Robert Townsend Jr. occupied some of his outside-the-home time involved in the odd neighborhood political fracas and a full portrait of his social time away from the family is unavailable, the clues that remain point to his embrace of a stable, sober way of life. Like other organized working men, his daily activities seemed well removed from the rowdy, male urban subculture ascribed to younger apprentices and laborers, as does his participation in several social reform movements.

Like Eaton, Townsend saw excessive drinking as a destructive influence on working families and actively supported the temperance movement beginning in the 1820s. Religious belief most likely buttressed his position as well as his contemporary work on petition drives as part of the Sabbatarian movement. This may have also motivated Robert when he signed a petition against the continuance of slavery in Washington, DC in 1831.33 Participation in social reform activities did not necessarily prove domestic or household bliss, but it does further reinforce the portrait of organized men as stable family men with community ties and social commitments, rather than rowdy street toughs. In support of this fact, Townsend himself noted that it was antithetical for organized working men to participate in anti-social behavior and challenged labor movement critics to "search the record of the calendar of crime, and you will no more find written therein the names of the industrious than those of the honest."34


The lives of Theophilus Eaton and Robert Townsend Jr. serve as poignant, yet typical examples of organized working men whose household concerns intertwined seamlessly with their labor movement activism. Like their organized contemporaries, Townsend and Eaton gravitated into unionism, working men's politics, and other social reform activism as husbands and fathers, within the context of specific domestic experiences and obligations. Even though their family profiles and life trajectories varied considerably, each man in some way reflected the average organized man's profile from the sample group in Chapter One.


Both men married and led families with multiple children, resided (at least part of the time) in journeymen's neighborhoods within close proximity to other trade unionists, and seemed to live rather stable lives while supporting temperance, antislavery, and moral reform. Eaton's financial problems and his eventual filing as an insolvent debtor not only inspired his poetry, but also grounded his participation in the New York Typographical Society's strike in 1809. That same year Robert Townsend Jr., not yet 25 years old but already the head of a household of five, helped draft the House Carpenters' strike manifesto. It included a social compact that championed hardworking, breadwinning petit patriarchs who claimed responsibility for their family's support and education in return for just compensation from employers. Given the importance of the head of household identity, organized working men such as Townsend and Eaton likewise idealized a worker masculinity that embodied the provisions of this compact.

Taken together, Chapters One and Two challenge the idea that working men and their families occupied separate spheres (home and work) by demonstrating that organized workers in early nineteenth-century New York City clearly defined themselves as household actors and specifically brought domestic interests and an ideal worker masculinity grounded in fulfilling household obligations with them when they entered the workplace and political world. This study moves, as organized working men did, from the home outward into the arena of various financial institutions and workshops. Section Two (Chapters Three and Four) follows these working men as they leave the home and confront market economic forces and workplace competition that they perceive as threatening their ability to provide for their family obligations and fulfill their notions of ideal worker masculinity. So, when the Journeymen House Carpenters' Union questioned their bosses' "abilities as workmen or their conduct as men" during an 1810 conflict, they referred not simply to workplace production issues, but to an ideal worker masculinity that united domestic and workplace concerns.35 Robert Townsend Jr., not surprisingly, chaired the committee that drafted the statement.


Note 1: American Citizen, April 10, 1809. back

Note 2: For a more extensive discussion of labor theory of value, see Jonathan A. Glickstein, Concepts of Free Labor in Antebellum America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991). back

Note 3: Published in Oxford, New York, The President ran from Apr. 2, 1808 to June 19, 1808. back

Note 4: Eaton appears in the 1810 New York City census with his small family when he was in his early twenties. See also Eaton's obituary in Albany Register, May 12, 1820. back

Note 5: All the documents relating to the insolvency case can be found in Supreme Court of Judicature (New York), Insolvency Papers, 1784-1828, New York State Archives. Volume 7. Theophilus Eaton (September 5, 1811-January 11, 1812). back

Note 6: Theophilus Eaton, Review of New-York, or Rambles Through the City. Original Poems. Moral, Religious, Sarcastic, Descriptive (New York: John Low, 1813), 44-45. back

Note 7: Eaton, Review of New-York, 69. back

Note 8: See October 30, December 16, 23, 30, 1809, January 6, March 3, 24, 31, April 7, 14, 21, 1810, in Minutes of the New York Typographical Society, 1809-1816. Volume 1, in Special Collections, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University. back

Note 9: Supreme Court of Judicature (New York), Insolvency Papers, 1784-1828, New York State Archives. Volume 7. Theophilus Eaton (September 5, 1811-January 11, 1812). back

Note 10: New York City Census and Jury List, 1819. back

Note 11: See Eaton, Review of New-York and Theophilus Eaton, Compass Table, or Topographical Gazetteer: Showing the Principal Cities, Villages, Towns, and Fortifications, in the United States and Canada: With Topographical Remarks and Giving the Distance and Precise Bearing of Each From New York City (Brooklyn: Pray and Bowen, 1813). back

Note 12: Eaton, Compass Table, 5 and 10. back

Note 13: Eaton, Review of New-York, 66-67. back

Note 14: Eaton, Review of New-York, 56. back

Note 15: Eaton, Review of New-York, 11-12. back

Note 16: The total debt in the insolvency case was $905.75. See Supreme Court of Judicature (New York), Insolvency Papers, 1784-1828, New York State Archives. Volume 7. Theophilus Eaton (September 5, 1811-January 11, 1812). back

Note 17: Eaton, Review of New-York, 59. back

Note 18: Eaton, Review of New-York, 40. back

Note 19: Cited in George A. Stevens, New York Typographical Union No. 6: Study of a Modern Trade Union and Its Predecessors (Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1913), 56. On the New York Typographical Society's labor conflict see Stevens, New York Typographical Union No. 6, 48-60 and Mark A. Lause, Some Degree of Power: From Hired Hand to Union Craftsman in the Preindustrial American Printing Trades, 1778-1815 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991), 70-71. back

Note 20: For more on the details of the conflict and Eaton's participation, see To the Master Printers of the City of New York (New York: T. & J. Swords, 1809). back

Note 21: Fitzwilliam Byrdsall, The History of the Loco-Foco or Equal Rights Party, Its Movements, Conventions and Proceedings, With Short Characteristic Sketches of its Prominent Men (New York: Clement & Packard, 1842), 71. See also The National Magazine: Devoted to Literature, Art, and Religion, March 1854, NewYork Times, July 7, 1948 and American Weekly, September 19, 1948. back

Note 22: On Robert Townsend Jr.'s birth and his mother's and father's spy stories, see New York Times, July 7, 1948 and American Weekly, September 19, 1948 and Harry Macy Jr., "Robert Townsend, Jr., of New York City," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 126, numbers 1, 2, and 4 (January, April, and October, 1994), 25-34, 108-112, 192-198. See also Walter Hugins, Jacksonian Democracy and the Working Class: A Study of the New York Workingmen's Movement, 1829-1837 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), 70-71 and George DeWan, "The Mystery of Agent 355 Unraveling the Case of the Patriot Spy Who Never Was"; available from; Internet; accessed 8 March 2006. back

Note 23: Byrdsall, The History of the Loco-Foco or Equal Rights Party, 70. back

Note 24: For more on Sean Wilentz's model of artisan republicanism and working men's politics in this era, see Wilentz, Chants Democratic, 61-107 and 172-218. On Townsend and the Anti-Masons, see Workingman's Advocate, June 30, 1832. back

Note 25: See William N. Black, "The Union Society of Journeymen House Carpenters: A Test in Residential Mobility in Antebellum New York City, 1830-1840" (MA Thesis, Columbia University, 1975), 6 and Hugins, Jacksonian Democracy, 70-72. On the Social Reform Society of New York, see Robert Townsend, An Inquiry Into the Cause of Social Evil: An Inaugural Address, Delivered July 8, 1839 (New York: Published by the Society, 1839), F.C. Treadwell, State Bonds (New York, n.p., 1839), "Social Reform Society," Radical, in Continuation of the Working Man's Advocate, January 1, 1841, and Calvin Colton, Reply to Webster. A Letter to Daniel Webster … In Reply to His Legal Opinion to Baring, Brothers & Co. Upon the Illegality and Unconstitutionality of State Bonds, and Loans of State Credit (New York, W. Hayward, 1840). back

Note 26: Willis, Tax and Census Records, New York City, 1789-1790 and 1810. back

Note 27: See United States Census Office, Population Schedules of the Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, New York (Washington, DC: National Archives, 1955) and United States Census Office, Population Schedules of the Fifth Census of the United States, 1830, New York (Washington, DC: National Archives, 1955). back

Note 28: New-York Reformer, Farmers', Mechanics', and Working Men's Champion, September 10, 1830. Also published as Proceedings of the Workingmen's State Convention, in the Town of Salina, Wednesday, August 25, 1830 (Auburn: Henry Oliphant, 1830). back

Note 29: American Citizen, April 10, 1809. back

Note 30: See Amy Bridges, A City in the Republic: Antebellum New York and the Origins of Machine Politics (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1984). back

Note 31: See Willis, Tax and Census Records, New York City, 1789-1790 and 1810, United States Census Office, Population Schedules of the Fourth Census of the United States, 1820, New York (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1955), and United States Census Office, Population Schedules of the Fifth Census of the United States, 1830, New York (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1955). back

Note 32: Black, "The Union Society of Journeymen House Carpenters", 21. back

Note 33: On the antislavery petition, see John Barley Jentz, "Artisans, Evangelicals, and the City: A Social History of Abolition and Labor Reform in Jacksonian New York" (Ph.D. diss. City University of New York, 1977), 351-352. On temperance see Wilentz, Chants Democratic, 225-226. back

Note 34: The Democrat, October 19, 1836. Townsend made the remark during a speech to the Convention of Mechanics, Farmers and Workingmen in Utica on September 17, 1836. back

Note 35: American Citizen, May 23, 1810. back