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The ten-hour day

January 5, 2012

Most government offices in Utah are now open from 8-5 Monday through Friday. Though some state employees have retained an option to work four ten-hour days, staff members at the Archives look back with nostalgia at the three-day weekend. Others think a ten-hour day is way too long. With diminished budgets and staff, government offices are attempting to do more with less. At the Archives, a successful volunteer program has helped.

The mission of the Archives is to assist government agencies in the efficient management of their records, to preserve those records of enduring value, and to provide quality access to public information. During the last year, volunteers contributed more than 6,000 hours, the equivalent of about three full-time employees. Much of their time was devoted to processing, scanning, and indexing historic records so that they can be made available online.

Court records from around the state have been coming to the Archives where they are housed in the temperature and humidity controlled core of the Archives Building. They can be requested through the History Research Room. The sheer volume of court records has slowed the process of making them available to the public.

The first step in processing the records is to remove any metal staples, pins, rivets, or clips and to unfold and flatten them. Then the records are put in acid free folders and boxes for storage. Handling the records with this amount of scrutiny, a volunteer came across interesting details on a receipt in a probate case file from Summit County.

Back to the topic of the ten hour day… this accounting record from 1908:

Due for labor:
5 days and two hours
@ $3.00 a day=$15.60
1 day for extra man= $3.00
+ Whiskey= $.50
total = $19.10
As I calculate, that is 30 cents an hour, ten-hour days, and strong incentive to drink on the job. More research on the topic could include: wage history as it relates to type of work, working conditions, benefits for workers, the price of whiskey, and the cost of living in 1908. The answers to all these questions and more await you through records preserved and accessible at the Utah State Archives. Contact the Archives at http://archives.utah.gov

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