Reflecting on Scribbles from 1928

While doing some house cleaning recently, we stumbled across a copy of Hogg’s Wage Tables for Building Contractors copyrighted in 1928.  It’s a leather-bound booklet dogeared from repeated use.  Our great grandfather, Robert Rust Sr., used this booklet to look up wage payments. The inside cover reads “A Complete Set of Wage Tables Compiled by Quarter Hours from 1 to 60 3/4 Hours and Covering Practically Every Wage Rate from $0.30 to $2.25 per Hour”.

Flipping through the booklet, we see penciled-in notes and calculations from our great grandfather. On the back side of the page, we see that he hand-calculated a wage table for $2.40 per hour, which exceeds the upper limit of the wage tables in the booklet. There is a paperclip on the page for the $1.87 hourly wage and many pencil marks on the page for $2.05 hourly wage. We speculate that he was paying most carpenters around $2.05 per hour which is equivalent to $36.19 per hour in today’s dollars according to the inflation calculator.

For perspective, Robert Rust Sr., started the business circa 1920. He saw an opportunity to build new homes on undeveloped land including farmland that was once part of the family dairy farm located in Alexandria near Braddock Road and Cameron Mills Road and parts of Mount Vernon Avenue in present-day Del Ray where he built his offices. By the year 1928, when the Hogg’s Wage Table booklet was copyrighted, the “roaring ‘20’s” was near its end. As we all know, a year later in 1929, the stock market collapsed and unemployment hit historic high levels that persisted through the Great Depression.  

The family business has prospered in good times and survived downturns, the most significant ones being the Great Depression and World War II. Our grandfather served in the Navy’s Construction Battalion, the “Seabeas,” building runways in the South Pacific during the war.  When he returned from the war, he worked with his father for several years before running the business on his own. In the 1950s and 60s, our grandfather did all types of residential and commercial construction – everything from new homes, remodels, churches, schools, and warehouses (including much of the Old Town, Alexandria waterfront). In those years, the city of Alexandria and neighboring Arlington and Fairfax counties were replete with undeveloped land, vacant lots and many rundown buildings in need of restoration. When our dad took over in the 1970s, he focused more on restoring homes in Old Town and expanded the repertoire to include solar and energy-efficient building assemblies. 

Today, we brothers Tom and Sam, see ourselves in a unique position with a business that operates on a long-term horizon. We have relationships with clients and partners that literally go back generations and that we expect to go forward for generations. We specialize in whole-home remodels, additions, and substantial kitchen and bath projects in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Washington D.C. and beyond. We have implemented a design / build business model so that we can deliver maximum value throughout the entire process. We use the latest building science, the most appropriate materials, and design that fits your unique lifestyle and tastes. We combine this future-focused way of building with a love for maintaining or restoring the fundamental character, charm, and craftsmanship of old buildings. In short, we build with the last 100 years and the next 100 years in mind.

PS. The use of Hogg’s Wage Tables in 1928 is a stark contrast to the technology of today used by us and other top remodelers. What would our great grandfather think of some of the tools we use today, such as cloud-based estimating and project management tools, much less 3D construction drawings and the ability to scan entire houses with lidar in a matter of minutes. Our passion for craftsmanship remains like a thread connecting 1928 to the present. While many of the tools have changed, the fundamentals remain the same.

Read more about our local history at Rust Construction >>

Sign Up for the Rust Newsletter

* indicates required