History of compensation and wages... There aren't pay stubs from the early days so it's difficult to pinpoint when a work-for-pay exchange began, but salaried employment appears to have been relatively rare and mostly limited to higher status roles, especially in government.

Early colonial records reference "high American wages" dating back to the beginning of the United States. In the early 1600s, money was very scarce and rarely used in the payment of wages. Instead, a barter system existed throughout the first century which allowed the even exchange of goods or services between tradesmen. Wages were often quoted in "tobacco notes" since tobacco was the highest standard of value in which items could be purchased. In New England, "country pay," mainly agricultural products such as corn, and beaver skin were the preferred method of compensation.

The scarcity of skilled craftsmen proved a consistent problem throughout the colonial times and a serious concern for more than a century. The result was a system of securing workers by contract which later became a standard labor policy. In 1630, Massachusetts declared that the "scarcity of workers caused them to raise their wages to an excessive rate." Many attempts were made repeatedly and unsuccessfully to regulate labor wages by legislative action.

More tomorrow...