What Happens to the Buggy Whip Makers?
When automobiles took over the roads, what happened to the men who made the wheels for horse drawn vehicles? What happened to the men who installed gas lamps in houses when electricity took over, to the men who built ice boxes (that used large blocks of ice) when ice boxes were replaced by refrigerators?
These were skilled craftsmen. They made valuable items. They often made their own tools. It took years to get to their level of craftsmanship.
It was hard when a job that your father and his father did cease to exists. There was no welfare in the past. You could, and did, starve to death. There were handouts from the church, but when a factory closed it wouldn’t be enough and there was always those that were too proud to except a handout.
Their hardships, their story is your story to write. Being fired in the 1800s and early 1900s could be a death sentence. You’re not writing about everyone of them. You’re writing about the one that did something about it.
What would your protagonist do. Hit the road and look for work? Would he call in favors from friends and family, take a job as a clerk in his uncles store. That would be a big emotional let down, going from a craftsman who spent years learning his trade to a clerk. But it was a living. Would your wheel maker turned clerk start making furniture in his limited spare time using the machines that put him out of a job? Would he improve the machines that cost him his job.
It’s hard to start over late in life. When you think you have it all figured out. When you have started planning for retirement, the bottom fall out and you have to start over. There will always be younger men willing to work for less than you.
Would your protagonist become a communist? A fighter for the unemployed. Would he become harden if he found out that he was working for someone that was interested only in himself and exploited his followers and workers?
A person that doesn’t quite after losing his or her job is the first turning point of a great story. It could break the protagonist out of the comfortable rut they’re in. Get him or her thinking about change. Then get them working for change. And if they succeed they would have little tolerance for ones that would not change or do anything about the situation they were in. The “I did it, you can do it” would run strong in their veins.
Stay strong, write on, and write about the ones that change, work for change, invent change.
Professor Hyram Voltage