How many servants did a typical plantation house have?

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major bill

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I visited the Ford House ( Edsel Ford) yesterday, We were told that the house had a permanent staff of 36 inside and 11 outside. This would be supplemented by more temporary staff if the Fords were entertaining. So how would the 36 instide staff compare with a typical plantation "staff". With the many labor saving devices of the 20th Century, would a plataion house have needed a larger number of servents? Could 11 outside staff care for the grounds without modern lawn care implements?
 

lelliott19

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You asked specifically about a "plantation house," so I'm guessing you mean in the south and assume you are talking about enslaved individuals? Keep in mind that the majority of Southern households had no slaves. I think its important to note that most plantations (even large ones) werent anything like Edsel Ford's mansion. On large plantations, there would have been a couple of house servants, a couple of cooks, maybe a driver who cared for the horses and carriage, and the rest would have been cross-trained field hands who had some kind of skills but also worked on the crops - like saddler/harness maker, carpenter, sawmill operator, seamstress, etc. Even on large plantations, when it came time to plant or harvest - everyone worked in the fields....well maybe not the cook, but most everyone else.
 

major bill

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The Fords tried to live reasonably moderate for example may wealthy b people had 10 guest bedrooms, Mrs. Ford only had two, her sons shared a bedroom and as did Mr. and Mrs. Ford. Remember Henry Ford out lived Edsel, so Edsel had not inherited his father's vast fortune and had to live on his Ford wages.
 
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lelliott19

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major bill

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Almost all the interior was old English houses interiors torn down and shipped to Michigan. So the Fords reused building materials, 400 hundred year old paneling and fireplaces. 500 year old floors, some of the carpets were 600 years old. The Fords even purchased used artwork and old used Chinese vases (hundred of years old) were re purposed as lamps.
 

lelliott19

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Almost all the interior was old English houses interiors torn down and shipped to Michigan. So the Fords reused building materials, 400 hundred year old paneling and fireplaces. 500 year old floors, some of the carpets were 600 years old. The Fords even purchased used artwork and old used Chinese vases (hundred of years old) were re purposed as lamps.
Wow. Id love to see that house. You know Berry College in Rome Georgia has ton of those kinds of buildings given by Henry Ford. They have campus tours - fascinating. You and Mrs Major Bill would love it!
 
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RobertP

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You asked specifically about a "plantation house," so I'm guessing you mean in the south and assume you are talking about enslaved individuals? Keep in mind that the majority of Southern households had no slaves. I think its important to note that most plantations (even large ones) werent anything like Edsel Ford's mansion. On large plantations, there would have been a couple of house servants, a couple of cooks, maybe a driver who cared for the horses and carriage, and the rest would have been cross-trained field hands who had some kind of skills but also worked on the crops - like saddler/harness maker, carpenter, sawmill operator, seamstress, etc. Even on large plantations, when it came time to plant or harvest - everyone worked in the fields....well maybe not the cook, but most everyone else.
I’d bet you could count the number of plantation houses with a permanent inside staff of 36 on one hand even after you’d lost a couple of fingers. In addition to what you said there may also be kitchen helpers in addition to cooks in the very largest houses, and a couple of nannies. The lifestyle of top tier northern industrialists in the gilded age would make the biggest plantation owners look small in comparison.
 

archieclement

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I visited the Ford House ( Edsel Ford) yesterday, We were told that the house had a permanent staff of 36 inside and 11 outside. This would be supplemented by more temporary staff if the Fords were entertaining. So how would the 36 instide staff compare with a typical plantation "staff". With the many labor saving devices of the 20th Century, would a plataion house have needed a larger number of servents? Could 11 outside staff care for the grounds without modern lawn care implements?
Not sure how one would settle on "typical" plantation anymore then a "typical" northern millionaires estate.

Family size, personal tastes, and functionality would affect it. The other day they said Whitehaven had 20-30 slaves, but it was a "play" farm, never turned a profit, if it had we may never have heard of Grant
 
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LasPalmas

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Not sure how one would settle on "typical" plantation anymore then a "typical" northern millionaires estate.

Amen, brother! Thank goodness for people who think.

Family size, personal tastes, and functionality would affect it. The other day they said Whitehaven had 20-30 slaves, but it was a "play" farm, never turned a profit, if it had we may never have heard of Grant
 
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6 Ft Under

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Hello,

I can add this, for what it's worth: The East Texas county I currently reside in held more slaves by 1860 than any other county in the state of Texas. The largest slave holding family was that of W.T. Scott, known as Colonel "Buck" Scott, who at one point owned a total of FIVE plantations & FIVE HUNDRED slaves (one hundred slaves for each plantation) - a huge number by anyone's standards & absolutely NOT the "norm" for these parts. Most early Texan families, like those on my mother's side, were too poor to own slaves. They had farms - not plantations. They usually had large families, with too many mouths of their own, to fed & house. My 3x-grandmother, for instance, had 16 children...anything that needed to be done, was done by her 16 children. The opposite was true for my father's side, whose family resided in North Carolina & Georgia. So, I'd venture to say there isn't a "typical" number. Location, wealth, & status being the variant.
 
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archieclement

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Hello,

I can add this, for what it's worth: The East Texas county I currently reside in held more slaves by 1860 than any other county in the state of Texas. The largest slave holding family was that of W.T. Scott, known as Colonel "Buck" Scott, who at one point owned a total of FIVE plantations & FIVE HUNDRED slaves (one hundred slaves for each plantation) - a huge number by anyone's standards & absolutely NOT the "norm" for these parts. Most early Texan families, like those on my mother's side, were too poor to own slaves. They had farms - not plantations. They usually had large families, with too many mouths of their own, to fed & house. My 3x-grandmother, for instance, had 16 children...anything that needed to be done, was done by her 16 children. The opposite was true for my father's side, whose family resided in North Carolina & Georgia. So, I'd venture to say there isn't a "typical" number. Location, wealth, & status being the variant.
But how many slaves were households slaves? Otherwise we might as well compare to how many employees worked for edsel in ford motor corporation.
 
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archieclement

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Is this the house? That's what you call "reasonably moderate?"
View attachment 311741
Most plantation houses in the south had a typical lower level layout downstairs - hall, parlor, dining room, bedroom. and 3-4 bedrooms upstairs. Even fancy ones like this https://civilwartalk.com/threads/letter-to-owner-of-riddicks-folly-suffolk-headquarters-of-brigadier-general-john-j-peck.157496/#post-2045613
Assuming "reasonablly moderate" to someone with a net worth of 500 million.........isn't the same as reasonably moderate to most of the rest of us...............
 
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