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On various occasions, construction laborers worked together to make demands of management. These disputes usually resolved amicably and give insight into how construction employees experienced their jobs.

Construction in the 1890s was dangerous work. Employees successfully requested that those injured in the course of their duties be given half pay in the event of an accident, a change from the previous policy of lost wages while recovering.

Workers also faced difficulties in petitioning management for shorter working days. All were expected to work an average of ten hours a day, six days a week. In 1892, carpenters complained of shortening winter days and requested to work eight hours rather than ten. In response, the estate installed special lights in their workshop instead.

Not all worker demands improved working conditions equitably. In 1893, the rail car transporting employees to the Esplanade broke down. Supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith requested a new car be provided for white employees “in strict accordance with [their] contract.” No mention is made of employees of other races in this letter nor if, or how, they travelled to work that day.

Laborers haul materials to bricklayers working on the foundation of Biltmore House. September 1891.

Employees ride the standard gauge rail line to the construction site. 1892.

Construction workers tile the interior of the Stables. The walls of Biltmore House rise behind them.